Spike in child respiratory infections filling hospitals

Pediatricians noticing rise in number of RSV cases

A surge in common respiratory viruses, also known as RSV, spreading at unprecedented levels amongst children has triggered a shortage of hospital beds, intensive care units being pushed past capacity, and overwhelmed healthcare workers.

“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.

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Pediatric hospital beds are filling up more now than they have over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the last 10 days, we’ve had over 100 kids with RSV come into our system, which is really unprecedented,” Dr. Salazar said.

Some doctors said children being more isolated to protect them from COVID may have fueled the rise in RSV cases.

“I think their immune system just hasn’t seen the number of viruses a typical child prior to the pandemic,” said Dr. Thomas Murray, who specializes in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Salazar concurred. “Kids were socially distanced. They were wearing masks for a long time. Properly so. We needed to do that to prevent COVID infections. Now, these viruses are capturing a population that is completely not used to them.”

News4JAX spoke with Wolfson Children’s Hospital which said it is seeing an increase in patients with respiratory illnesses and an increase in hospitalizations.

Symptoms to watch out for

Symptoms are typically similar to the common cold and may include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
Preventative measures
  • Proper hand washing
  • Keeping a child home when he or she is ill

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.

Despite the surge, doctors said they don’t want parents to be too alarmed.

“RSV is not as serious as COVID was in the adult population. We can take care of these kids. We can actually provide the care. The majority of them will get better and go home,” Dr. Salazar said.