CLEVELAND (WJW) – Some pediatric hospitals across the country are being pushed to capacity as RSV, a respiratory virus that can be especially severe for babies and young children, surges.
“In the last three weeks, it has really, really taken over,” said Dr. Claudia Hoyen, University Hospitals Medical Director of Infection Control.
Akron Children’s Hospital admitted nearly 80 RSV pediatric patients last week alone, a level of admissions the hospital reports it usually doesn’t reach until late December.
“What that means is there are tons more children seen in the emergency department and there are hundreds more out there getting the disease everyday,” said Dr. Hoyen.
University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, in addition to Cleveland Clinic Children’s, also reports an increase in pediatric RSV patients.
“About 70% of what we are seeing at this point which is an exponential increase,” said Dr. Purva Grover, Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at the Cleveland Clinic. “We are hitting a point where we have pretty much every other patient in the ED or more with RSV.”
RSV is a common virus many children get by the age of two years old. According to doctors, symptoms often present like a cold, however younger children and babies can develop difficulty breathing.
“It’s really a very high number of kids, a portion of kids in the hospital that are actually admitted with RSV. We’re seeing lots of little babies with bronchiolitis,” said Dr. Hoyen.
There is no vaccine for RSV. Treatment is symptomatic which can lead to longer hospital admissions and a backlog of resources.
“It’s really becoming a triaging of resources at this point and it’s scary in that sense but we are doing the best we can,” Dr. Grover said.
Some children who are suspected to have recently recovered from RSV are also receiving treatment for other respiratory complications.
“We’ve had some kids who sound like maybe three or four weeks ago they had RSV and now they might be coming to the hospital with pneumonia or an ear infection that has settled in the bone behind their ear,” said Dr. Hoyen.
Doctors said it’s unusual for RSV to spike this time of year. Hospitals started seeing reports of cases in August instead of November. The decrease in masking could be one of the reasons behind the surge, Dr. Hoyen said.
“After dramatic COVID-related reductions in 2020 and 2021, we expect the 2022-23 season to be harsher than usual. Each year’s RSV gives some background immunity for the next year. The mild 2020 and 2021 seasons have led to this,” said Akron Children’s Hospital Chief Academic Officer and Chair of Pediatric Research Dr. Michael Forbes.
Prevention measures, Dr. Forbes said, include distancing, hand washing, masking and staying home when sick. Parents of infants at high risk for severe RSV should talk to their child’s pediatrician about additional precautions.
“Preemies, babies with heart disease on meds and those with complex or chronic lung disease can have a life changing/fatal outcome if infected with RSV,” said Dr. Forbes.