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How to save your infant a trip to the doctor this fall

Vaccine trial participants from the St. Louis-area are helping bring RSV immunizations to everyone.

ST. LOUIS — Every year, pediatricians brace for the wave of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases that surge in late fall and early winter. This year, there's an option that may save your little one a trip to the doctor.

RSV manifests with cold-like symptoms. The virus can be deadly for children under 5 years old. 

"In infants and those less than 5 years of age, 300 die every year in the U.S.," Washington University Pediatrics Infectious Diseases physician at St. Louis Children's Hospital, Dr. Jason Newland, told 5 On Your Side. 

"About 100,000 will be admitted to the hospital every year and about 1.5 million children will go to their pediatrician every year," he said. 

Newland's office has been involved with RSV immunization trials for pregnant women and children. 

"We live in a wonderful city that does a lot of good for the country and the world," Newland said. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a vaccine for pregnant women that will pass on RSV-fighting antibodies to the baby. The next step for this vaccine is to receive approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Newland said he expects the vaccine for pregnant women to be approved by the CDC in October and available shortly after. 

While not a vaccine, there is an approved treatment for infants to help them fight off RSV. Newland said both treatments are safe.

"When we have a vaccine that is approved, like the upcoming RSV vaccine for pregnant women, you can trust it's safe. Now for the babies that can get this monoclonal antibody - it is also extremely safe." 

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-created proteins. The antibodies seek out foreign matter, like RSV, stick to it and hopefully destroy it. 

Newland said the treatment for children is life-saving. 

"We know that infants - especially those that are in their first couple months of life - can land in the Intensive Care Unit with RSV and this will protect them. This immunization will protect them from that." 

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