Bakersfield mom talks about her son’s experience with RSV


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is one of the most common causes of childhood illness, and while it’s been around since the 1950’s, we haven’t heard much about it in the last year due to covid and the flu. This year, the season for respiratory illness has come earlier than in past years, and cases of RSV are on the rise here in Kern County.

On Monday, the California Department of Public Health announced the first RSV-related death of a child under the age of 5. CDPH has withheld certain information about the case, including where in the state it happened, to maintain patient confidentiality.

In Bakersfield, a mother is dealing with RSV in one of her own children. Casey Sudduth’s 3-year-old son Tristyn has recently been diagnosed with RSV, and she says it was agonizing watching her son go through something she couldn’t cure.

“It was really, really, really scary,” said Sudduth. “Especially when your little 3-years-old looks at you in the middle of the night because he’s coughing so hard and he’s like, ‘Mom, I just can’t do it. I just can’t do it.’”

Initially, Tristyn’s doctors didn’t realize he had the virus, and with the pandemic-fueled flareup of respiratory disease happening this winter, it can be difficult to tell if a child has a cold, the flu, covid-19, or RSV. For Tristyn, it wasn’t until the third trip to the emergency room that Sudduth learned he had RSV.

She says it was the worst she’s ever seen her son.

“Well, he’s never been sick before either until he got it, so it made it a lot worse because he’s never been sick,” said Sudduth. “His immune system hasn’t been built up because of covid. He was always at home with me. He’s never been to daycare before we moved here and he started school.”

Sudduth moved her family to Bakersfield three months ago, and Tristyn caught RSV a month ago. She says it was terrifying when he wasn’t recovering from the virus.

“I wanted to take him, like, every day [to the emergency room] because every day he wasn’t getting better,” Sudduth said. “I was just worried to death about him until finally I found out it was RSV.”

Getting the diagnosis may have answered Sudduth’s immediate question about why Tristyn was sick, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no vaccine currently available for RSV, although scientists are working to develop one.

“We had several different diagnoses before they finally said it was RSV, and you know, they just said there was really nothing we could do,” said Sudduth. “I mean, there’s no kind of medicine we could get, there’s no kind of anything. Just to be glad that he was three and not under, because if he’s younger than that it’s a lot worse.”

While Tristyn still has RSV, Sudduth says he’s hoping some of the worst parts they experienced are behind them.

“The snotty yuckiness, and then he was wheezing, especially when he would sleep,” Sudduth said. “Like, he couldn’t sleep at all. It was rough, so he was up a lot in the middle of the night. The cough was what really got to him because it was so, like, just bad.”

Tristyn isn’t alone. Kehvon Bekarev, a pediatrician with Kern Medical, says there’s been an increase in RSV cases this year.

“We’re seeing a lot more right now than we have in the last couple of years as people are using decreased levels of respiratory precautions, less masks,” said Bekarev.

Bekarev adds that the number of RSV cases coming into Kern County hospitals reflects the national situation.

“That’s certainly the case at Kern Medical,” said Bekarev. “Tis the case throughout Bakersfield and Kern County. All the pediatric floors are full.”

While Tristyn is doing well and should be able to return to school soon, Sudduth says she’s having mixed feelings about sending him back.

“Then again at the same time, I’m terrified for him to go back to school because I don’t want him to et sick again, because RSV is, you know, your child can get it again right after,” said Sudduth. “There’s, like, a big chance he can catch it again if any of the other kids have it.”

Sudduth’s advice to parents who are concerned about RSV is to try and get a diagnosis for your child as soon as possible.

“It was hard because when your child doesn’t sleep, you don’t sleep, so when he was up all night, I was up all night,” said Sudduth. “So really, have a lot of patience and try to catch it as early as possible. The earlier the better.”


What to know about Respiratory Syncytial Virus

More and more cases of respiratory illnesses are popping up in kern county causing increased concerns for parents.

RSV is a virus that impacts a person’s ability to breathe. It is a common cause of bronchiolitis which is swelling in the small airways in the lungs and pneumonia in infants.

The sickness is spread by contact with fluid from an infected person’s nose or mouth and can be transferred from surfaces. It’s often found in classrooms and childcare centers in the winter and early spring.

Most babies have been infected at least once by the time they turn two years old but they can also become re-infected.

Kern Health officials told 23ABC this age group is at a significantly higher risk of catching RSV.

“The fact that they’ve never had that exposure previously, certainly can make them more vulnerable. And us, you know, all of those precautions we took, we’ve loosened them. We’re out mixing more. We aren’t wearing face coverings as much so that certainly can lend to these respiratory illnesses spreading more quickly,” explained Michelle Corson with Kern County Public Health.


When to seek medical attention for RSV

And it isn’t just Kern County. Surges in respiratory viruses like RSV and flu are overwhelming children’s hospitals around the country.

Across the U.S. some hospitals are filling up as respiratory illnesses continue to spread.

“We are seeing high levels of RSV certainly and our influenza levels are starting to increase,” said Dr. Angela Mattke, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic.

While most kids who get sick this season will recover quickly with home care, some young children may need extra care.

Dr. Mattke says whether medical attention is needed depends on three things. First, how your child is breathing.

“Are they breathing faster? More shallow? Or, are they working harder to breathe?”

If there are any breathing troubles seek medical care right away.

Mattke says to give your sick child medications to reduce fever. Which kind will depend on the age of your baby. She says children who are more comfortable will drink more. Which is key to keeping them hydrated.

“They might not nurse as much and might not take as much from the bottle when they’re sick but they need to make at least three wet diapers in 24 hours.”

Finally, Dr. Mattke says to pay attention to your child’s energy level. If the child is difficult to arouse seek medical attention right away.

When it comes to flu she says there’s one thing we can control: “I’d strongly encourage parents if they haven’t already gotten their child’s influenza vaccine this year, to get it scheduled as soon as possible.”

For more information about RSV, visit the Mayo Clinic’s RSV information website, or the Centers for Disease Control’s fact sheet on RSV.

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