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RSV cases starting to peak in Indiana, family warns parents to stay vigilant about symptoms

Respiratory syncytial virus can cause mild, cold-like symptoms. But for some, RSV is serious.

INDIANAPOLIS — "You just feel like you're never going to be in this position, you never think this is going to be your family story," said Kelsey Wilson of Westfield. 

Inside Riley Hospital for Children, 4-year-old Evan Wilson carefully packs his Play-Doh from his hospital bed. These silly, fun moments between Kelsey and Evan feel all the more special as Evan slowly starts to recover from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).  

Evan had first gotten sick around the end of September. 

"It was my husband really who pointed it out, was his breathing looked a little different. And I don't know how to explain it," Wilson said. 

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They checked in first with a pediatrician and then later with a friend who is a doctor about Evan's breathing. When his breathing seemed off as Evan slept, the Wilsons knew it was time to bring him in. 

Credit: Kelsey Wilson

Kelsey said she took him to an ER in Westfield. Soon after, an ambulance quickly brought them to Riley Hospital for Children, where they've been since Sept. 27.

"It was really scary, and even once we got here, they had him on oxygen and it really spiraled from there," Wilson said. 

RELATED: Central Indiana hospitals overwhelmed by surge of RSV cases

Just 3 years old at the time, Evan tested positive for RSV, rhinovirus, COVID-19, pneumonia and a bacterial infection in his lungs. He would be intubated and given a chest tube, lifesaving measures for her little boy.

"That was obviously even scarier," Wilson said. "And at that point, I don't even know how to explain it, it was beyond terrifying." 

Evan is one of many kids around Indiana that have recently tested positive for RSV. It can cause mild, cold-like symptoms. But for some, RSV is serious, especially for infants.

RSV can cause bronchiolitis or pneumonia. And positive cases and hospitalizations from RSV have been rising, according to the CDC.

But here in Indiana, new cases that had been high in September and October finally appear to be slowing.

"I think we're trending down, so we already hit peak," said Dr. John Christenson, associate medical director of infection prevention at Riley. 

Data provided by Riley found reports cases of RSV have been high this fall, with 97 patients treated with RSV in September of this year, compared to 51 patients treated with RSV in 2021. In October, those numbers grew. Riley treated 33 patients with RSV in October 2021 and 134 patients with RSV in October 2022. 

Christenson said cases are still high but are finally dropping here.

Nationwide, RSV's spike has been unseasonable. Christenson said that's due to safety measures taken to slow COVID's spread in recent years.

"We're on the downslide of our season. California is now peaking. So every state is a little bit different and we have to blame our friend COVID on changing our seasonality," said Christenson.

"Never, never in our wildest dreams would we ever think that a month-and-a-half later that we would still be here," Wilson said. 

After a month in the pediatric ICU, Evan is finally on the road to recovery. He even celebrated turning 4 while in the hospital. Slowly but surely, his personality is coming back strong after beating RSV.

"The day he started talking about toots and farts and poops, I was like, 'All right, he's back!'" Wilson said, laughing. 

Now as Evan goes through rehab over the next few weeks, their next goal is to get him home.

"Are you excited to play with your brother and sister?" Wilson asked. 

"No," Evan said, with a smile.  

"Oh, you little stinker," Wilson said, pulling her son close. 

For other families who may also face RSV next month or in the next few years, she's urging parents to ask your child's doctor questions if something's wrong, take them in for care instead of waiting until the next day and always trust your instinct.

That small choice, Kelsey said, made all the difference for their family.

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