Oct 21, 2022 - News

RSV and other children's respiratory illnesses are rising in Colorado

Data: CDC; Chart: Alayna Alvarez/Axios

Children's Hospital Colorado is filling up with sick kids as cases of respiratory illnesses — particularly respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV — climb nationwide.

Why it matters: There's no vaccine for the contagious virus, which can be dangerous in young children and the elderly.

What's happening: RSV — which includes symptoms like coughing, wheezing and fever — peaks during colder months. But this year's season started early and has higher than usual case counts, says Kevin Messacar, a doctor at Children's Hospital Colorado.

  • Pediatricians are also noticing an uptick in influenza cases, indicating an early start to flu season.

What they're saying: "We have been seeing increased patient volumes since the late summer, which started with rhinoviruses and enteroviruses as children returned to school, and now is being driven by RSV and parainfluenza," Messacar says.

  • It's "essential" that people ages 6 months and up get a flu vaccine "as soon as possible" to get protected, he adds.

By the numbers: As of Oct. 8, the percentage of positive RSV cases in Colorado based on a three-week moving average was 5.87%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • That's a spike from about 1% a month earlier.

Flashback: Colorado saw a surge of RSV cases in summer 2021 — well above normal for warmer months — following a year of masking and social distancing.

Be smart: To prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, health experts say caregivers should ensure kids are washing their hands regularly, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home from school when sick, and masking when symptomatic.

  • Health officials also advise that parents seek medical attention if their child is breathing abnormally or unable to stay hydrated.

The big picture: Children's hospitals nationwide are seeing spikes in respiratory illnesses — including at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., where doctors say the medical center is near capacity, Axios' Chelsea Cirruzzo reports.

  • Children's National tells Axios that a shortage of health care workers across the U.S. is exacerbating hospitals' workloads.
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