November 2008 News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

As temperatures dip, virus concerns rise

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) isn’t the flu, but its cold- and flu-like symptoms are surging in children, say infectious-disease specialists at UT Southwestern Medical Center. RSV is the leading cause of viral respiratory infections and hospitalizations in infants and children worldwide.

“RSV can cause bronchitis and pneumonia in several high-risk groups. These include prematurely born infants, children with heart disease or immune deficiencies and children up to 3 years of age who suffered from asthma or any other chronic lung ailment within six months prior to showing RSV symptoms,” warns Dr. Asuncion Mejias, assistant professor of pediatrics.

Half of all babies develop an RSV infection within the first year of life and practically all have had at least one RSV infection by age 3, says Dr. Octavio Ramilo, professor of pediatrics. About 3 percent to 10 percent of infants with RSV infections develop severe bronchitis and require hospitalization.

Most children recover within a week, but RSV can cause repeated infections throughout life. There is no vaccine available. 

Dr. Mejias says you can help prevent infection by maintaining high nutrition, washing hands regularly, keeping those infected away from children, and not taking infants to areas of potential infection. Also, regularly cleaning bathrooms, other home and day-care surfaces, toys and eating utensils are effective steps in limiting exposure to RSV.

Monthly intramuscular injections of RSV-fighting antibodies are recommended for treating some higher-risk children during the fall-to-spring RSV season. Children with heart disease can be hospitalized and treated with high doses of aerosolized ribavirin within 48 hours of infection.

“RSV is mild to most adults, but elderly folk and others with immune deficiencies are at high risk for severe RSV impact,” says Dr. Ramilo.

Drs. Mejias and Ramilo recently conducted a study in mice that suggests that RSV may hide in the lungs even after other symptoms abate, ultimately resurfacing to cause recurrent wheezing and chronic airway disease.

“This research suggests that there’s a potential new mechanism for asthma related to viral infections in children that could be associated with RSV,” says Dr. Mejias. “These findings could aid in the development of preventive and therapeutic interventions.”

The most striking finding, Dr. Mejias says, is that the amount of virus detected in the lungs of the mice directly correlates with the severity of airway hyperreactivity. Airway hyperreactivity, or episodes of bronchospasms in humans, is the main characteristic of asthma.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in pediatrics.

Media Contact: Kristen Holland Shear

All kidding aside, you can sleep better using good habits

Physicians say adults should imitate children when it comes to getting enough rest.

“Children go to bed when they’re tired,” says Dr. Nilesh Dave, medical director of the Sleep and Breathing Disorders Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Just like children don’t get in the bed to play, adults shouldn’t read, work, watch television or use their laptop while in bed, Dr. Dave says.

“The bed should only be used for two things: sleep and sex,” he says.

Bad bedtime habits could lead to insomnia, which has been associated with depression, anxiety, chronic pain and high blood pressure. Drowsiness from insomnia can affect concentration, work performance, quality of life and driving alertness.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in sleep and breathing disorders.

Media Contact: LaKisha Ladson

Fillers offer less costly alternative to face lifts

If the tighter economy has you rethinking a face lift, consider some less costly options to eliminate wrinkles, facial folds and other signs of aging, UT Southwestern Medical center surgeons suggest.

“Some of our patients are now considering facial fillers and Botox as a temporary alternative,” says Dr. Rod Rohrich, chairman of plastic surgery at UT Southwestern. “These can offer a less costly approach with shorter recovery times, some as quick as a few hours, so you don’t have to miss work.”

Dermal fillers are injected during 10- to 20-minute procedures targeting the specific area of the face needing rejuvenation. Some are designed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines around the eyes, mouth and nose, while others can help produce fuller lips and cheeks.

Costs range from several hundred dollars to just over $1,000, a fraction of the cost for traditional face lifts and with little or no down time. These solutions can last a few months to more than a year, and some longer-term fillers are being tested.

“But make sure you are getting an FDA-approved filler from a plastic surgeon or dermatologist specially trained for that particular filler,” Dr. Rohrich advises. “Fillers are injected differently and different ones are used for different areas of the face.”

Visit to learn more about clinical services in plastic surgery at UT Southwestern.

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Heart-attack recovery includes exercise regimens

Exercise following heart attacks can help patients recover faster and keep healthy for many years to come. Still, most patients who have survived a heart attack don’t follow through with exercise regimens designed to improve their heart health.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center say avoiding exercise programs endanger patients and increase the odds of future heart disease and even death.

“It has been shown that such programs reduce death by up to 25 percent in such patients,” said Dr. Amit Khera, a cardiologist at UT Southwestern. “In addition, cardiac rehabilitation programs improve physical functioning, patient confidence and well being.”

Visit to learn more about heart/lung/vascular clinical services at UT Southwestern.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales


To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via e-mail, subscribe at