AUSTIN (KXAN) — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, affects about 97% of children by the age of two. 

“RSV on a national level causes 1.5 million outpatient visits. It causes 80,000 hospitalizations in kids less than five years of age every single year, and it causes 300 deaths in ages zero to five,” said Dr. Juanita Mora, an immunologist and American Lung Association Board Member.

This week, the American Lung Association launched a new campaign about RSV and the newly approved shot against it.

“This is the first year where we have a lot of hope, because we actually have a therapy now to help protect babies from getting so sick from RSV,” said Dr. Mora.

The CDC recommends the newly approved RSV antibody immunization for all infants younger than 8 months, born during or entering their first RSV season.

Dr. Mora stressed the importance of clarifying the monoclonal antibody is not a vaccine.

“So, with vaccines, it gives active immunity, which means your immune systems revved up to make the protection. Here, we’re giving you the protection already. So that way, it’s locked in their little body for five months, that way it can help fight off the RSV.

Additionally, the CDC recommends a dose of RSV antibody for children between the ages of 8 – 19 months entering their second RSV season who are in at least one of these groups:

  • Children who have chronic lung disease from being born premature and are requiring medical therapy for their lung disease
  • Children who are severely immunocompromised
  • Children with cystic fibrosis who have severe disease
  • American Indian and Alaska Native children

Dr. Mora asked parents to talk to their pediatrician first to make sure they have the immunization that she believes will save lives.

“In the studies, things to note, it decreased actual outpatient visits by 75% in babies who got this shot, and in decreased ICU stay or Intensive Care Unit stay by 90%. And I can’t tell you how scary it is for a lot of parents who have had their babies in an intensive care unit and now having a treatment just is such wonderful hope and news to give parents as a doctor who sees tons of RSV.”

RSV may not be severe when it first starts, according to the CDC but can become more severe a few days into the illness. Early symptoms of RSV to watch out for:

  • Runny nose
  • Eating or drinking less
  • Cough, which may progress to wheezing or difficulty breathing