RSV hits hard this year | health beat
If you have children or grandchildren, you’ve probably heard of RSV in recent weeks.
The disease, predominant during the winter months, usually causes mild symptoms in children and adults. Cough, congestion and fever are the most common signs of infection.
While most children with RSV recover in about a week, some cases can become serious and require hospitalization. In infants and the elderly, the virus can lead to more serious problems.
Symptoms of RSV, which usually occur just days after a person becomes infected, include:
- Runny nose
- Decreased appetite
- To cough
- To sneeze
Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital of Corewell Health has seen an increased number of RSV cases, with around 70 to 80 children hospitalized in recent weeks.
Ambulatory care has also increased.
“Our emergency department normally sees around 150 patients a day,” Andrea Hadley, MD, section chief of pediatric hospital medicine at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, said. “We are seeing almost 250 patients a day right now.”
It is important to understand that RSV is a virus that occurs every year, with cases peaking in the winter.
Along with the higher number of cases this year, illnesses have also been more severe.
“Children were not exposed to (RSV) during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Hadley said. “So they haven’t developed any immunity. The same goes for pregnant women and their babies.
“So we are seeing an increase in volume due to children who have never been exposed.”
Patients aged 2 years and younger are most susceptible to the disease. This includes babies with underlying health conditions such as prematurity and illness.
“RSV can be very serious,” Dr. Hadley said. “What will get you into the hospital is difficulty breathing, needing oxygen, right up to needing a breathing machine. And poor nutrition and dehydration.
If you notice that your baby is having trouble breathing or seems to be using his muscles to help him breathe, take him to the emergency room immediately.
Other symptoms may be manageable via a visit to the pediatrician or a call to the doctor.
“Our hospital is over capacity right now,” Dr. Hadley said. “We have reached or exceeded daily capacity over the past few weeks and have had to make various adjustments to deal with the situation. For example, we had to double many patient rooms.
“Accompany the patient”
Another problem: the flu is just starting to hit. Members of the Children’s Hospital team are expecting a new wave of sick patients very soon.
In the midst of it all, nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and their team members continue to provide the best patient care possible.
“I want to thank the nursing and respiratory therapist staff,” said Dr. Hadley. “They are the lifeblood of these RSV patients because the treatment is what we call supportive care.
“Our exceptional nursing and respiratory therapy staff provide the cornerstone of care for these patients while in hospital, including suctioning of nasal and airway secretions, sometimes special types of high-pressure oxygen. flow, gavages or intravenous fluids,” said Dr. Hadley. “They work so hard to provide excellent care despite the strain of all the teams.
“We usually don’t use any medication to treat RSV. It’s all about supporting the patient through the illness and keeping them comfortable while their body fights the virus.
“It’s just a very scary time for families,” she said. “It makes the kids really sick.”
Matthew Sims, MD, Ph.D.director of infectious disease research for Corewell Health East, said members of his team are seeing similar trends on the east side of the state.
“Always talk to your doctor or pediatrician if your child is sick and listen to their advice,” Dr. Sims said. “And come see us if your children have a high fever or are unresponsive. We’re here 24/7 to support the community.
RSV can be a nasty, even deadly virus, he said.
Positive tests for RSV and influenza started showing up in early October, then increased dramatically in November.
“We saw an almost 23% positivity rate on RSV testing in Southeast Michigan the first week of November,” he said.
Elderly patients and those with underlying respiratory problems were also at increased risk.
“There are so many people with lung disease damaged by COVID-19,” Dr. Sims said. “We don’t know how it will go this year.”
Bottom line: The number of children with influenza or RSV is significantly higher this year compared to last year.
“We’re never that full and never use other intensive care units or step in on other floors,” Dr Sims said. “It’s the first time… in 16 years that I’ve been here that I’ve seen numbers like this.”
To protect yourself from RSV, you must avoid contact with a sick person. It is also important to wash your hands often and follow other safety precautions.
And although there is currently no vaccine against RSV, researchers work to develop them.
“There are two vaccines that will soon be submitted to the FDA for review,” Dr. Sims said. “I understand these are for adults and hopefully they will be researched for children as well.”
The growing body of evidence shows the benefits far outweigh the risks when it comes to the pending vaccine, he said.