Early rise in respiratory viruses in children overwhelms some hospitals


A resurgence of respiratory illnesses among children is beginning to strain hospitals.

In particular, hospitals are seeing an increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a common cold virus that can be associated with severe illness in young children and the elderly. Cases are rising in several parts of the United States, with some already approaching seasonal peak levels, according to the latest real-time surveillance data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Surveillance data collected by the CDC clearly shows an increase in RSV cases across the country in recent weeks, with cases detected by PCR testing more than tripling in the past two months and approaching the peaks of last year. The CDC’s surveillance program collects data from 75 counties representing approximately 9% of the total US population.

“RSV admissions have skyrocketed at Connecticut Children’s. October was like never before for this virus,” Monica M. Buchanan, senior director of strategic and corporate communications for Connecticut Children’s Hospital, told CNN.

Buchanan said hospital leaders have met with the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the National Guard to begin the logistical review of setting up a mobile field hospital on the front lawn and that Further work is scheduled for Thursday to determine a final decision and gain approval.

Connecticut Children’s executive vice president and chief medical officer Dr. Juan Salazar told CNN’s Kate Bolduan that beds are being filled to capacity and children are arriving at the hospital at an “unprecedented” level: more 100 with respiratory syncytial virus over the past 10 days, many of whom need intensive care and oxygen therapy.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, I’ve been at Connecticut Children’s for 25 years, and I’ve never seen this level of flare – especially RSV – come into our hospital,” he said.

Salazar said the hospital has not yet expanded to a campaign tent, “but we need to be ready in case the numbers continue to rise. So if RSV increases further and it hits us with the flu at the end of this…we will need additional capacity for our hospital.

The rise in cases is also coming earlier in the year than doctors would usually expect.

“We used to have a kind of seasonality for different viruses,” said Dr. Thomas Murray, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Yale University School of Medicine. Affiliated with CNN WFSB. “Like the one right now respiratory syncytial virus or RSV would come in December it would go away followed by the flu it would go away and another. What seemed to be happening with Covid is that now they all flow at the same time.

In most of the United States, RSV typically circulates in the fall, winter, and spring, but the timing and severity of RSV season in any given community can vary from year to year.

In 2021, RSV peaked during the summer, so this year’s fall and winter surge marks a return to circulation patterns seen in pre-pandemic years, according to the CDC spokesperson’s statement. , Kristen Nordlund.

The change comes as other respiratory viruses – the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, rhinoviruses, enteroviruses and influenza – are also causing more concern.

Salazar said the United States is emerging from the Covid era, when children had relatively little exposure to viruses — and it’s hitting them now.

“I think for the next four to eight weeks, we just have to be careful,” Salazar said, adding that getting the flu shot now could help curb rising flu cases months later.

“Get your kids vaccinated against the flu,” he said. “Now is the time for you to do it.”

The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get the flu shot.

An early increase in seasonal influenza activity has been reported across most of the United States, with the southeast and south-central regions of the country reporting the highest levels of influenza, according to the CDC.

“Here we are in mid-October – not mid-November – we are already seeing scattered flu cases, even hospitalized flu cases, across the country,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor at the Vanderbilt Division of Infectious Diseases. Academic Medical Center and Medical Director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told CNN.

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