Every year around 2,000 newborn children are hospitalized in the Netherlands with the RS virus, especially in the winter months. Between 150 and 200 children end up in intensive care due to an infection. Parents who experienced that are delighted the announcement of a new drug that protects children against the virus for a much longer period of time.
The RS virus is a cold virus that does no harm in older children and adults, but can have disastrous consequences for very young children. Worldwide, the virus is the second leading cause of death in infants after malaria. 99 percent of deaths involve children in developing countries. In the Netherlands, one to two children die each year from the effects of the virus.
“Actually, we cannot properly treat children with the RS virus,” says pediatric infectivologist Louis Bont of the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital in Utrecht. “We don’t have any specific medications, so all we can do is keep them drinking well, getting oxygen and possibly using a machine in intensive care because they won’t be able to save it themselves.”
Lungs full of fluid
Ventilation was also needed for the now almost 12 year old Tess, the daughter of Karin Elshout. Tess and her twin brother were born ten weeks early in the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital. Shortly after the girl was transferred to another hospital, she contracted the virus.
“She was almost three weeks old when my mother’s feeling said something was wrong. They tested her, and then she was brought back to Utrecht very quickly,” says Elshout. “What you hear now about how people with corona are in intensive care, it seemed shocking. Tess was on her stomach on the ventilator, her lungs were full of fluid. They kept her in a coma for two to three weeks. She has really been in critical condition. “
Monique van Niel’s daughter became infected just after Christmas last year. Minte was then 5.5 weeks old. “On Friday she became snotty and on Sunday I went to Google because I suspected that she was short of breath. On Monday I went to the doctor with her, who immediately sent us to the hospital,” says Van Niel. “When we got there I still thought it would be okay, but in the end Minte was not home until fourteen days later.”
“The bad thing about this virus is that you are so powerless as a parent,” says Van Niel. “In intensive care we were barely allowed to touch her. You are there and look at it.”
Mara, the daughter of Nikki Smeets, was also seriously ill with the virus: