October 25, 2022 – In early October, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, rips through the home of Victoria Thiel in Indiana. Her three older children had manageable symptoms. But her 8-week-old baby ended up seriously ill.
Thiel, whose family lives in Fort Wayne, said the child is suffering chest contraction While breathing, she was taken to the emergency room of a local hospital, where she was diagnosed with RSV and bacterial pneumonia.
An unprecedented rush in RSV
Thiel’s experience reflects what is happening across the country. On October 21, a Director of the Center for Disease Control He tweeted that respiratory viruses, including influenza and RSV, are on the rise. Data from CDC It shows that the percentage of those who have tested positive for RSV has more than doubled over the past month — straining children’s hospitals as they try to care for the sickest patients.
“Nobody has enough beds,” says Renee Higerson, MD, a pediatric intensive care specialist and medical director at Pediatrix Critical Care of Texas and St. David’s Children’s Hospital. “We take care of patients everywhere possible in the hospital.”
Yvonne Giunta, MDThe pediatric emergency department at her facility is seeing a high number of cases of respiratory syncytial virus, along with other respiratory infections, said the director of pediatric emergency medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York.
“It’s not uncommon for babies to have an increase in size in late fall and early winter,” Giunta says. “But this increase appears to have started earlier than in previous years.”
What is behind the boom?
RSV is usually a predictable seasonal pattern, peaking in late December to mid-February, According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus affects young children most, causing approximately 58,000 hospitalizations for children under the age of five, and 100 to 300 deaths annually in that age group. But As noted by the Center for Disease ControlIn 2020, respiratory syncytial virus was virtually nonexistent, when pandemic prevention methods almost eliminated the virus from circulation.
Christopher J. Harrison, M.D.Children are infected with RSV, said a professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City By the time they reach 2These first exposures make children less susceptible to infection with the virus.
But the COVID pandemic means that some babies born in the past two years have never been exposed to RSV.
“Since the gap in which we lost regular viruses, we’ve ended up really shaking everything up in epidemiology,” Harrison says.
He notes that the easing of epidemic control measures, along with a greater number of vulnerable young people, represents a “perfect storm” for this outbreak.
Hospitals are going in
Higerson says she has been relieved by how hospitals in her area have come together, and has called on patients to take free hospital beds on the rare occasions when they become available.
“Everyone works collaboratively,” she says.
But the biggest hurdles Shortage of nursing and staff.
“We’re opening some adult hospital departments, making beds for kids,” she says. But what limits us is the availability of nurses. We just need more nurses.”
Giunta says it is already working on strategies for ways to meet staffing needs.
“We encourage a swing shift, which typically covers an adult emergency department primarily, to cover the pediatric area in the late afternoon and evening hours,” she says.
Michael Chang, MD, a pediatric infectious disease physician at UT Health Houston and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, whose facility is also running at or near capacity due to the high volume of RSV, stresses the importance of educating parents when it comes to managing this outbreak.
Chang says many parents have resumed normal activities prior to the pandemic, exhausted by pandemic protocols.
“People are so tired of thinking about the pandemic that we are really back to our previous behavior of ignoring mild illnesses, runny nose, etc,” he says.
Hospitals and children’s offices should emphasize the ABCs of disease prevention when it comes to RSV, such as avoiding crowds, staying home when sick, and washing hands, Zhang says. Educating parents about when symptoms can be managed at home, and when to take a child to the emergency room, may also help reduce the number of patients crowding emergency rooms.
What parents should know
In most children, RSV . causes Mild cold symptoms Such as sore throat, congestion and cough. But for children under the age of two, children with weakened immune systems, or those with asthma, RSV can be more dangerous.
Thayle’s baby was put on high-flow oxygen, but her oxygen levels remained below normal.
“At that point, they told me she’d need a ventilator,” Thiele says.
After 4 days of ventilation, antibiotics and steroid treatment, the infant was able to breathe on her own. Thiel says she is grateful for the compassionate care her daughter received, but the atmosphere in the hospital was chaotic and intimidating.
“When we went to the emergency room, they had to take her stats in the hallway because all the rooms were full of kids with RSV,” Thiele says. “The pediatric intensive care unit was filled with the sounds of children coughing and the screens exploding due to their low stats. It was really heartbreaking.”
According to the American Academy of PediatricsSigns that your child may need immediate medical attention include:
- breathing difficulties
- Nostrils widened while breathing
- Cramps in the abdomen or ribs
- Clavicle absorption during breathing
- Gray or blue skin or lips
- extreme lethargy
- Symptoms of dehydration, such as decreased wet nappies