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Oklahoma mother raises awareness about RSV

After her infant daughter developed RSV, Mikala Watkins, of Oklahoma, made it a point to start educating parents about respiratory syncytial virus, more commonly known as RSV.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm •  Published: January 15, 2013
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/articleid/3746204/1/pictures/1928293">Photo - Mikala Watkins holds her infant daughter, Sophie, at a news conference about RSV last week. Watkins is sharing her story of having a child go to the hospital with RSV in hopes that it will help other parents understand the potential severity of the illness.  PHOTO PROVIDED BY OU MEDICAL CENTER
Mikala Watkins holds her infant daughter, Sophie, at a news conference about RSV last week. Watkins is sharing her story of having a child go to the hospital with RSV in hopes that it will help other parents understand the potential severity of the illness. PHOTO PROVIDED BY OU MEDICAL CENTER

The day she got out, Watkins learned that her 7-year-old son had the flu, meaning Sophie couldn't be around him. The family has been living with various relatives until everyone is better.

Watkins is looking forward to getting home and back on a routine.

Dr. Robert Welliver moved to Oklahoma about two years ago to work on either a vaccine or a specific medicine for RSV.

Welliver, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with OU Children's Physicians, said RSV is serious in young babies because their lungs aren't finished developing. Babies have small lungs, and RSV is an airway disease, he said.

“Where you breathe is through the air sacs that are called the alveoli, and you have a lot of those when you're born, but you don't have nearly as many when you're born as you do when you get a few years older,” Welliver said. “Lungs are really not as mature as the rest of the body is when you're born.”

There's some discussion about the long-term impact RSV has on a child, Welliver said.

About 40 percent of infants who have RSV will have wheezing when they're school age, he said. There's some discussion about children with RSV who develop emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease later in life, but there's not as much research on that, he said.

“The question has been — were these guys children who were born with abnormal lungs in the first place, and RSV is just the first indication that something is wrong, or does RSV actually damage the lungs?” Welliver said. “It's a question that hasn't been answered yet.”

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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