Infections and Viruses

This section describes some of the most common infections and viruses babies have in the NICU:
• CMV
• Group B Strep
• Herpes simplex
• Necrotizing enterocolitis
• Pneumonia
• Sepsis


Cytomegalovirus (sye-toh-MEG-uh-loh-vy-ruhs)
What it is: Also called CMV. An infection a person gets from a virus. If a pregnant woman is infected with CMV, the virus can be passed to her baby. CMV can cause problems including hearing loss, vision loss, intellectual disabilities (problems with how the brain works that can cause a person to have trouble or delays in learning, communicating, taking care of himself or getting along with others), lung problems and seizures (sudden change in the brain’s electrical activity).

Treatment: Babies with CMV should be checked regularly by a provider for hearing and vision loss. A baby with severe CMV may get medicine. Most babies with CMV will grow up healthy.


group b streptococcus disease (groop bee streptoh-KOK-uhs duh-ZEEZ)
What it is: Also called group b strep. An infection that a woman can pass to her baby during birth. A baby with this condition may have a fever, a hard time breathing, a hard time eating and may have a blue-ish color to her skin.

Treatment: The baby will get antibiotics (medicines that kill infections caused by bacteria) to treat the infection. Babies with a more severe case may need other procedures to treat the infection.


herpes simplex (HUR-peez SYM-pleks)
What it is: Also called HSV. A virus that a woman can pass to her baby during birth or during pregnancy. Herpes can cause serious health conditions. A baby with herpes may have blisters on his body, trouble breathing, jaundice (when the baby’s eyes and skin look yellow and his liver isn’t fully developed or isn’t working) and bleed easily. If untreated it can cause problems with many different organs including the brain and spinal cord (a bundle of nerves that carries signals between the brain and the body), liver (an organ that helps digest food, store energy, and remove harmful substances from the body), and kidneys (an organ that remove waste products and excess fluid from the body).

Treatment: Babies with HSV will receive medicine through an IV (also called intravenous line, a small tube put in a baby’s vein to give fluids or medicine). If treatment is started early, many of the long-term effects can be managed.

 

necrotizing enterocolitis (NEK-roh-tyezeeng en-tuh-roh-koh-LYE-tiss)
What it is: Also called NEC. When a baby’s intestines (parts of the body that digest food and absorb liquids and salts) are damaged and don’t get enough blood. The intestines can become inflamed or in serious cases, develop a hole (also called perforation). When this happens bacteria can infect the damaged area and cause serious health problems. Babies with NEC may have trouble feeding and swelling in their belly. This condition mostly affects premature babies (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

Treatment: Babies with this condition are treated with antibiotics (medicine that kills infections caused by bacteria) and fed through an IV (also called intravenous line, a small tube put in a baby’s vein to give fluids or medicine) until the intestines get better. Sometimes a provider does surgery to remove the damaged part of the baby’s intestines.


pneumonia (noo-MOH-nyuh)
What it is: A lung infection common in premature (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and other sick newborns. Infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria or other germs. Signs of pneumonia include trouble breathing, changes in breathing rate and having more frequent episodes of apnea (when a baby stops breathing for 15 seconds more more).

Treatment: To check for pneumonia, a doctor listens to the baby’s lungs and does a chest X-ray (a test that uses small amounts of radiation to take pictures of the inside of the body) to check for an infection and fluid in the lungs. The doctor may insert a tube into the baby’s airway to take a sample of fluid to check for bacteria or a virus. Treatment includes antibiotics (medicine that kills infections caused by bacteria). Some babies need help to breathe until the infection clears up.


sepsis (sep-siss)
What it is: A serious blood infection (an illness of the blood caused by some viruses, bacteria or other germs). Many babies have trouble fighting off germs that cause sepsis.

Treatment: If a baby has problems controlling his body temperature, high or low blood sugar levels, breathing problems or low blood pressure (the force of blood that pushes against the walls of the arteries), NICU staff may do lab tests and X-rays (a test that uses small amounts of radiation to take pictures of the inside of the body) to check for sepsis. Providers give antibiotics (medicines that kill infections caused by bacteria) to a baby with sepsis.