Pediatric hospitals overwhelmed by respiratory virus spread

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – A surge in children’s respiratory illnesses across the country has doctors concerned and hospitals stretched thin.

A spike in the seasonal illness RSV comes just amid a looming flu season that’s expected to be the worst in years.

Health experts are also watching for an increase in COVID and warning Americans to take precautions ahead of Halloween and the holiday season.

Hospitals are filling up with children fighting respiratory illnesses, with patients coming in numbers Connecticut nurse Stephanie Fortier has never seen. “Definitely not as high as we’ve been seeing them now,” said the Yale New Haven Hospital nurse. “And I would also say from over the years just like the acuity in how sick the kids are is much higher than it’s been ever in the past.”

32 states have reported an increase in RSV cases, and the Department of Health and Human Services says 75% of the country’s estimated 40,000 pediatric ICU beds are now full.

Two-month-old Asa just came home from the hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Asa’s mother, Shanisty Ireland, said, “If you’ve seen a child in that kind of distress with that labored breathing. It’s the most terrifying thing as a parent.”

Doctors say anyone can get RSV. But babies and the elderly tend to get sicker faster.

Dr. Jennifer Ray works at Mercy Hospital’s Primary Care Office in Troy, Missouri. She said, “A lot of stuffy runny nose, pretty bad cough, fevers.”

Driving the surge is the many young kids weren’t exposed to viruses during peak COVID precautions.

Health officials are also warning this flu season could be the worst in years, urging people to get a flu shot and the latest COVID booster that only 5% of those eligible have gotten.

COVID cases have been trending downward but are expected to rise this winter as hospitals that are still facing staffing shortages brace for battle on multiple fronts.

Health officials want us to get used to those COVID booster shots. An advisory committee to the CDC voted to make them part of the recommended immunization schedule for children and adults, just like your flu shot.

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