Virus puts ‘even greater strain’ on hospitals, officials warn

Oct 27, 2022, 3:56 PM
Cerri McKeon held her two-month-old daughter, Eden Smith while Dr. Vainio, MD took notes and he asked about her respiratory symptoms. Smith was tested for the flu, COVID-19 and RSV. The flu results came back negative and it will be a few days before the other results come back. The Min No Aya Win clinic on the Fond Du Lac reservation has seen a small amount of patients on a daily basis as they prepare for a wave of COVID-19 cases to hit their area. (Photo by Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

The State Health Department has now confirmed that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — a common respiratory virus that affects children — is having an impact on local hospitals.

“Hospitals are already at high capacity and very stressed. And when you add in complications by an early and severe season of highly contagious respiratory viruses, that puts an even greater strain on the system,” nurse Sparrow Helland, the assistant nurse manager of the Pediatric Clinic at Harborview. “We’re hearing that most pediatric sites such as Seattle Children’s Hospital and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital are seeing record high emergency department volumes due to RSV and emergency other respiratory viruses.”

Some people are asking how to tell if their child has the respiratory illness.

There are a variety of symptoms, but the most common are difficulty breathing and a loss of appetite, specifically among infants.

“Pale (skin) is an early warning sign, so if you’re noticing that your child’s color is off, that means to get help,” said Helland. “Some things that would lead us to believe they need a (hospital) admission are high fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing, oxygen need, the inability to maintain their hydration or keeping up with their mealtimes. Also, if their urine output is decreased. Those are all concerns.”

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common infection in the respiratory system that is the single most common cause of preparatory hospitalization in infants, and often causes bronchitis and pneumonia.

What’s behind worrying RSV surge in US children’s hospitals?

Helland said that they have been receiving many calls from families concerned about RSV at unusually high volume. Normally this time of year, there would be three or fewer, but in the past week, there have been nearly 90 positive cases.

Most infections do resolve themselves without medical intervention in about a week or two. Still, for kids with underlying lung or cardiovascular problems, the illness can become more serious.

Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, Chief Science Officer of the Washington Department of Health, warns that hospitals, which have already been struggling with keeping up with surges of COVID-19 infections and the normal increase in warm weather injuries, the new infection could continue to cause backups.

You can talk to your child’s primary care provider if they start to develop symptoms, but most cases can be treated at home.

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Virus puts ‘even greater strain’ on hospitals, officials warn