PreemieCare Growing Number Of Infants At High Risk Of Respiratory Syncytial Virus

NEW YORK, Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Every 60 seconds in the United States a premature baby is born.(1) In an average week, there are more than 9,000 babies born before the 37th week of gestation and nearly 1,500 babies born at less than 32 weeks of gestation.(2) That means one out of every eight babies is premature. These babies have smaller, less developed lungs that put them at substantially greater risk of respiratory disease. One of the most common and potentially serious respiratory infections that parents of preemies need to be aware of and to take precautions against is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Unfortunately, many new parents are unaware of what they need to do to keep their baby healthy and to protect them from this and other respiratory illnesses.

World-renowned jazz vocalist, Maysa Leak, knows what it is like to be a parent of a premature baby. She delivered her son, Jazz, 15 weeks early, 6,000 miles away from home while on tour in Japan. Celebrated for her soulful voice and lyrics, Maysa titled her CD "Out of the Blue" based on a song she wrote while in the hospital after Jazz was born. As Maysa learned, prematurity may come out of the blue, but being educated about the potential health risks for premature babies is key to making it through an unexpected event. As a result, she has made a commitment to educate new mothers about prematurity and urges them to play it safe when it comes to RSV.

"After I brought Jazz home from the hospital, he became sick with a respiratory virus I had never heard of and that is when I learned RSV could be a serious problem for premature babies," commented Maysa. "It was frightening to imagine his life being threatened by RSV. My mission is to use my voice, both through music and speech, to reach out to mothers of premature babies and to educate them about prematurity, RSV and the steps parents can take to help protect their babies."

RSV is the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infection in children under five years of age(3) and the number one reason for hospitalization of children under the age of one.(1) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that each year up to 125,000 children are hospitalized with a serious case of RSV disease.(3) Since premature birth interrupts the final stages of lung development, premature infants are at a greater risk for developing serious respiratory problems compared to full-term children.

"The RSV season is now upon us and it can have a significant impact on the health of premature babies and the lives of their families," said Steve Berman, M.D., FAAP, former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Although having a premature child often happens unexpectedly, parents can educate themselves and follow simple steps to keep their baby healthy."

Dr. Berman recommends using the acronym CARES as a guideline to help parents protect their premature babies from contracting serious RSV disease. Clean hands before touching the baby. Ask friends and relatives not to visit if they have a cold, fever or sore throat. Know the signs and symptoms of lower Respiratory diseases, including RSV. Educate yourself, family and friends about what to expect raising a premature baby. Keep your baby away from second-hand Smoke. These tips can help keep your entire family healthy.

PreemieCare, an international non-profit organization dedicated to educating and supporting parents of premature infants, encourages parents to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of RSV. "Most people have not heard of RSV until their baby becomes very sick," said Maureen Boyle, Executive Director of PreemieCare. "If parents were educated about RSV early on, they would know how serious this virus can be and would take preventive measures, especially prior to the start of RSV season."

About RSV

RSV is a common, highly contagious and potentially serious virus. Virtually all children are exposed to RSV during their first two years of life and re-infection throughout life is very common. Premature children and babies with chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease are at increased risk for serious complications from RSV.

Initially, the symptoms of RSV may be similar to a cold and may include: fever, runny nose and coughing. An infected baby can get very sick, very quickly and can develop symptoms such as difficulty breathing, difficulty eating, wheezing (a whistling sound), rapid breathing, and a blue color around the lips. Since RSV complications can strike rapidly, parents of at-risk children need to act fast by calling their pediatrician or healthcare provider immediately if signs of RSV complications appear.

There is a medication, Synagis(R) (palivizumab), that is indicated for the prevention of serious lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in pediatric patients at high risk of RSV disease. Synagis(R) is a humanized monoclonal antibody licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998. Synagis(R) is given through a simple intramuscular injection, which can be administered in the healthcare provider's office once a month during the RSV season. Synagis(R) has been used safely in thousands of babies. Adverse events with Synagis(R) may include upper respiratory tract infection, ear infection, fever, and runny nose. Very rare cases of severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis (<1 case per 100,000 patients) and hypersensitivity reactions have been reported. Synagis(R) should not be used in patients with a history of a severe prior reaction to Synagis(R) or its components.

For more information about RSV, parents can call 1-877-848-8512, visit the PreemieCare website at, or visit the RSV web site at

More information on Maysa's personal story with prematurity and her son, Jazz, can be obtained in press kit materials.

PreemieCare, a division of MOST (Mothers of Supertwins), an international non-profit organization, is dedicated to educating and supporting parents of premature infants. The RSV education and awareness campaign has been developed under an unrestricted grant from MedImmune, Inc.

MedImmune strives to provide better medicines to patients, new medical options for physicians, rewarding careers to employees, and increased value to shareholders. Dedicated to advancing science and medicine to help people live better lives, the company is focused on the areas of pediatric infectious diseases, cancer and inflammatory diseases. With approximately 1,800 employees worldwide, MedImmune is headquartered in Maryland. For more information, visit the company's website at

(1) Leader S. Kohlhase K. Respiratory syncytial virus-coded pediatric hospitalizations, 1997 to 1999. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002; 21(7):629-632. (2) National Center for Health Statistics, Final Natality Data, 1991-2001. (3) Shay, DK, Holman, RC, Roosevelt, GE et el. J. Infec. Dis. 2001:183; 16-22. Contacts: Nina Steinberg (212) 845-4267 Elizabeth Shupp-Baxter (212) 845-4212


CONTACT: Nina Steinberg, +1-212-845-4267,,or Elizabeth Shupp-Baxter, +1-212-845-4212,,both for PreemieCare

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