Federal health officials say America’s pediatric hospital beds are fuller now than they’ve been in the past two years.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds are currently in use nationwide. That compares to only about two-thirds of pediatric beds being in use on an average day over the past two years.
Pediatric units in hospitals across the country are overwhelmed by cases of common respiratory viruses, also known as RSV.
“Our beds are filled to capacity, the kids keep coming in... I have never seen this level of surge, specifically of RSV, coming into our hospital,” said Dr. Juan Salazar of Connecticut Children’s Hospital. “Over the last 10 days we’ve had over 100 kids with RSV come into our system, which is really unprecedented.”
Health officials say pediatric beds in intensive care units are now about 80% full. More than 4,400 cases of RSV were detected in children during the first week of October.
News4JAX spoke with Wolfson Children’s Hospital which said it is seeing an increase in patients with respiratory illnesses and an increase in hospitalizations.
Health officials say an infected person can pass on RSV through a cough or sneeze. If the respiratory droplets land on a surface like a doorknob or desk and someone else touches it and then touches their face, they can get sick.
Symptoms to watch out for
Symptoms are typically similar to the common cold and may include:
- Runny nose
- Proper hand washing
- Keeping a child home when he or she is ill
The CDC said most kids catch RSV at some point before they turn 2, and it’s usually mild. Symptoms typically last a week or two and clear up with rest and fluids.
Doctors say newborns and premature babies are most vulnerable to severe illness with RSV.
Doctors say to especially watch for severe symptoms which would include difficulty breathing, wheezing and breathing really fast, their chest is actually turning in as they’re breathing.
Wolfson said parents with children who are ill shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to their pediatrician. If a child is having difficulty breathing, they should go to the nearest Children’s Emergency Center.
The hospital said though there’s no vaccine to prevent RSV, it wants to remind parents that it’s officially flu season, which can be severe in children. Children over six months can receive the flu and COVID-19 vaccine.