Sunday, October 25, 2009

RSV season

The pediatrician’s office called on Friday and told me the NICU sent them a letter that indicated they wanted the twins to receive Synagis this winter. Synagis was approved by the FDA in 1998 to help prevent serious complications from RSV infection in high-risk babies. Most people have not heard of RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, even though about 67% of babies are infected with the virus, which causes a lung infection, before their first birthday and virtually all children will have been infected by their second birthday. Dr. Neese had previously told me he didn’t think the kids would need it because they were too healthy but has now changed his mind upon the advisement of the NICU and the amount of illness that is circulating. It still needs to be approved by the insurance company and we should hear back within a week or so. Approval is key as each shot costs approximately $2,400! A home health nurse will come to our house to weigh the babies and administer the proper dose of a shot once a month for the next 5 months.

For full-term babies, RSV typically is not any worse than a common cold, but for preemies, the virus can be quite different. Babies born earlier than 36 weeks are at the highest risk for serious complications like pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and other sometimes fatal complications. In addition, RSV is thought to play a major role in the development of childhood asthma. During RSV season up to 125,000 infants and young children will be admitted to the hospital as a result of RSV infection. Sadly, about 2% of these children may die from complications associated with it. Our babies were born premature (28 weeks of gestation, which is 12 weeks early), are multiples, and had low birth weights; these are among the highest risk factors for contracting RSV and developing serious complications.

Preventing the spread of RSV is very difficult. Thus, we must be vigilant about keeping our children safe during RSV season (October through April). The virus is spread through physical contact such as shaking hands with an infected person, in the air via a cough or sneeze, or by touching an infected object. The virus can live as long as 6 hours on hands and up to 12 hours on surfaces such as doorknobs, telephones, faucet handles, counters, used tissues, or burp cloths, and it spreads very easily.

You may ask, “Can’t they fight it off and build up their immune system? Kids need to get sick, right?” The simple answer is NO. Since our babies were pre-term, they did not acquire the necessary immunities to fight off infection. If they contract RSV, they could be hospitalized.

We’ll be asking our visitors to follow a few guidelines to help prevent the babies from contracting RSV or any other illness. We ask that all visitors do the following:

  1. Please refrain from coming over if you are currently sick and have not been symptom-free for at least 5 days, if you live with someone who is sick, or have been in close contact with someone who is sick.
  2. When you arrive, please wash your hands with warm water and soap, and use hand-sanitizer as needed before touching the babies.
  3. Please, if it is possible, get a flu shot.
    If you smoke, we ask that you change your clothing and do not smoke prior to visiting, as a preemie’s lungs are very sensitive to smoke. Most RSV sites recommend against passive smoke exposure.
  4. If you are parents to a baby or toddler, please refrain from bringing them to our house during RSV season.

Unfortunately we will not be attending many events during RSV season. Our goal is to make it through this and the next RSV seasons without the twins contracting RSV or any other serious illness. Their lungs are still very fragile until they are 2-years-old. This website offers a great visual comparison of a preemie’s lungs compared to the lungs of a full-term baby: http://www.preemiecare.org/LungsTrees03-4.pdf

Thanks for your help in continuing to keep our Wonder Twins healthy!

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