New Study: Parents’ Clothing Could Infect NICU Infants with RSV

by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor

Fragile preemies and newborns may face the risk of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) from the most well-meaning source—their parents. A new study from Australia found that parents’ clothing can infect infants in the NICU with the dangerous seasonal virus.

Researchers at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney found that four percent of the swabs taken from parents and other NICU visitors’ clothes carried RSV. “High-touch” areas, such as bedrails, nurses’ computers and chairs beside infants’ beds carried detectable RSV in nine percent of swabs. The study did not detect RSV on the hands of visitors, doctors or nurses.

[WATCH: Protect Premature Infants from RSV Virus]

The findings, released prior to the November onset of RSV season in many U.S. states, may compel hospitals to rethink whether they require parents and NICU visitors to change clothes before visiting infants.

While most children face RSV by age two, premature infants struggle in particular because of their fragile lungs and immature immune systems. Preventative treatment exists, but current guidelinesfrom the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases severely limit premature infants’ access to it. Some state Medicaid systems have adopted the AAP’s stance into their coverage policies, effectively denying RSV protection for most infants born after 29 weeks gestation—which includes the majority of premature infants.

RSV causes 90,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths per year in children five years of age and younger. It’s 10 times deadlier than the flu.


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