Respiratory virus cases in children surging "like never before"
Respiratory illnesses in children are overwhelming hospitals across the United States right now.
The big picture: The unseasonably high numbers of respiratory illness in kids has put a strain on hospitals that are already preparing for the typical wintertime surge of patients ill from viruses.
- Hospitals are also battling incoming cases of COVID, rhinoviruses and the flu year-round. It doesn't help that there's been a nationwide shortage of health care workers.
Physicians across the country have reported seeing more cases of the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in recent weeks.
- RSV is a common respiratory virus among children that produces common cold symptoms.
- For most, a mild case of RSV lasts about two weeks. But some infants, young children and older adults, especially those with pre-existing health conditions, may suffer from more severe cases, leading to hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By the numbers: Data from the CDC show that cases of RSV detected by PCR tests have tripled in the last two months.
- Case numbers have already reached peak levels from 2021, according to CDC data.
Zoom in: Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., neared capacity this week as respiratory illness cases spiked, Axios D.C. reports.
- Children's Hospital Colorado has been filling up with sick kids, too, per Axios Denver.
- Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford is considering building a field hospital outside the main facility if case numbers continue to grow, Juan Salazar, the physician-in-chief, told the Wall Street Journal.
How we got here: In pre-pandemic years, RSV would make its rounds in the fall and winter before going away in the summer, according to the Wall Street Journal. COVID shifted the pattern, causing a dip in RSV as the coronavirus bullied its way through the population.
- But this year, RSV and other respiratory illnesses lingered throughout the summer and now into early fall.
What they're saying: "RSV admissions have skyrocketed at Connecticut Children's. October has been like never before for this virus," Monica Buchanan, senior director at Connecticut Children's Hospital, told CNN.
- "I've been doing this for a long time, I’ve been at Connecticut Children’s for 25 years, and I have never seen this level of surge — specifically of RSV — coming into our hospital," Salazar told CNN.
- "I think for the next four to eight weeks, we just have to be careful."
What to do: Officials recommend caregivers vaccinate their children for influenza to protect against a rise in those cases later this winter.
Go deeper: Here's what caregivers should consider when assessing their children's health this winter