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Although the causes remain a mystery, African-American and Hispanic mothers are more likely to give birth to a preterm infant. In fact, babies born to African-American mothers are twice as likely to have low birth weights compared to Caucasian babies.

According to the CDC, 18% of African-American women give birth to a premature baby meaning nearly 100,000 African-American babies are born early every year in the US. This is compared to pre-term birth rates of 12% for Hispanic moms and 11.6% for Caucasian moms. Premature birth is a leading cause of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Often mistaken for the common cold, RSV is a common, seasonal respiratory disease that infects all babies at least once by the age of two; however, it can be especially serious in preemies because of their underdeveloped lungs and immature immune systems. In fact, RSV is 10 times more lethal than the flu, and studies have shown that RSV accounts for one of every 10 visits to a pediatrician and one of every 38 trips to the emergency room. Recent data indicates that infants from multicultural communities are also at increased risk to develop severe RSV.

Many parents are unaware of the threat RSV poses to premature babies because symptoms in most infants mimic the common cold. In fact, it is the number one cause of infant hospitalization. So, take steps to educate yourself on RSV, and ask your child’s doctor for ways to help protect your child from the virus.

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