It began a few weeks ago, a record jump in the number of young children coming into Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's emergency departments and urgent care centers struggling to breathe. They're sick with the highly-contagious RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.
Dr. Jim Fortenberry, Pediatrician-in-Chief at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, says last week alone - about 100 children, most under the age of 18 months, tested positive for RSV. He says that is just the tip of the iceberg because only the very sickest children get tested.
"You want to watch for is difficulties in breathing," says Dr. Fortenberry. "If your infant or small child is having difficulty taking a breath in, if they're breathing hard, or fast, if you notice any blueness around their lips or their fingertips."
There is no vaccine for RSV, so Dr. Fortenberry says if you have a young child, be careful right now. Stay away from crowds. Don't allow others to kiss or have close contact with your baby. Don't allow anyone to smoke around your child, which can cause breathing problems.
"Focus on washing your hands, and make sure your child is washing his or her hands as well. Avoid sharing glasses or toothbrushes," says Fortenberry.
RSV hits babies born prematurely especially hard, landing some infants in Children's ICU, requiring a machine to help them breathe.
Dr. Fortenberry says this is always a busy time of year for Children's emergency departments. But they're not seeing the typical culprit.
"We're seeing these high volumes of patients, and this is not the flu," says Fortenberry. "The good news is the flu has not yet hit Atlanta, so there is still time to get your flu vaccine. I can't emphasize enough getting that flu vaccine."