Surge in young RSV patients fills pediatric hospital beds

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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Surge in young RSV patients fills pediatric hospital beds
North Carolina has seen an uptick of more than 250 RSV cases

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As North Carolina reaches the peak of viral respiratory season, parents like Emmalyn Johnson are keeping her two-month-old close with illnesses like RSV sweeping across the Triangle.

"We stay home as much as possible," Johnson said.

As of Dec. 2, North Carolina has seen an uptick of more than 250 RSV cases.

UNC Health has had a surge of young RSV patients filling up the pediatric hospital beds.

"The high volumes are creating a strain in terms of available beds," UNC Health spokesman Alan Wolf said. "The Pediatric ICU is full, and they are having to turn away some referrals from other hospitals across the state."

Duke Health is also not exempt from the wave of respiratory viruses, according to pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Ganga Moorthy.

"We've seen about 10 to 15 kids who are admitted on any given day," Moorthy said. "Some children have more prolonged hospitalizations that can last up to about a week."

While most healthy adults can get over RSV, health experts warn it can be dangerous, especially for babies under six months.

ALSO SEE: As we enter the thick of RSV season, Duke Health on navigating the virus amid drug shortage

"Those are the children who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized, and in particular, those who are less than three months of age are the ones that should have the most caution," Moorthy said.

This comes amid an ongoing shortage of Nirsevimab, an RSV treatment that's being prioritized for this age group.

"You can ask your pediatrician if they have it available, but it may be that they don't have enough in stock for all infants this season," Moorthy said.

However, there are other ways adults can protect their loved ones.

"For folks who are healthy young adults, protecting the people around them at risk is the best thing they can do," NCDHSS epidemiology medical director Dr. Erica Wilson said. "Staying home if they're sick, covering their cough, washing hands, and helping make sure that their loved ones are getting vaccinated and protecting themselves."

Moms and grandparents can also play a role by getting vaccinated.

There's currently protection for pregnant people and adults over 60.

"We also have vaccines for COVID-19 and flu, which are also circulating right now," Wilson said. "Making sure folks are getting vaccinated for all of those respiratory pathogens for which vaccines are available can help prevent hospitalizations and death."