Lung Virus Fills U.S. Children’s Hospitals as Isolation Ends
(Bloomberg) -- Oklahoma and Louisiana health officials said that a surge in cases of a virus more frequently seen in winter is filling hospital pediatric wards as children emerge from Covid isolation.
Respiratory syncytial virus usually causes mild coldlike symptoms and most people recover in weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include runny nose, loss of appetite, fever and wheezing. Infants and older adults are at heightened risk of severe disease from the pathogen.
RSV has been climbing nationally since April, as children who endured extended isolation during the early months of the pandemic emerged to interact more with peers at school, camps and playgrounds. The virus is generally seen in colder months when kids are packed together indoors in classrooms or at daycare centers.
The big out-of-season jump means hospitals are crowded with young patients at a time when they are also confronting a rise in coronavirus infections due to the delta variant. Covid cases are surging in Florida, Texas and California, and cities around the nation are setting new rules for masks and vaccines. President Joe Biden called for states to provide incentives to those who get vaccinated.
Across the U.S., the pandemic is raging in unvacccinated pockets, and attention is increasingly turning to care for its youngest victims. But in some states, that capacity is already stretched.
Oklahoma has seen an increase in RSV cases in June and July.
“It goes right along the timeline of us kind of coming out of Covid, and unmasking and getting out and getting around,” said Cameron Mantor, medical director at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City.
For Louisiana, the situation is even more complex. Not only are officials there facing an unseasonable outbreak of RSV, but they are also seeing younger Covid patient get “sicker in higher numbers, and get more severe disease with delta than they have before,” said Joseph Kanter, the state health officer.
The overcrowding of facilities caused by the RSV outbreak and rising Covid-19 cases is posing an additional challenge for children’s hospitals during an already very busy season, Kanter said.
Out of the 330 beds in the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, only four patients are ill with Covid: three children and a mother.
“There is a large population of RSV patients that we typically don’t take care of in the summer” said Mantor. They are being admitted to both Med-Surg units and ICUs, and “that is making it more challenging for us this summer,” he said.
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