Oct 25, 2022 - News

Austin ER's "inundated" with respiratory virus cases in children

A child is vaccinated for influenza on Oct. 17 in Seville. Photo: Joaquin Corchero/Europa Press via Getty Images

Austin health officials say the area is experiencing an uptick in the number of patients in pediatric emergency departments, mirroring a national trend in rising respiratory illness rates among children.

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, writes Axios' Herb Scribner.

Catch up quick: For most, a mild case of respiratory syncytial virus, or 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.

What they're saying: Dell Children's Medical Center, St. David’s Children's Hospital and Austin Public Health released a joint statement saying emergency departments are "inundated with children suffering from symptoms of flu-like illnesses."

  • Health officials urged parents to call their doctor or take their child to an urgent care clinic to free up emergency department space.
  • "If they are having trouble breathing or have some other type of related emergency condition, they should go to an emergency department," officials added.

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 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


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