An early rise in respiratory viruses in children is overwhelming some hospitals

The CDC says an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu.

ByChris Boyette, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, October 20, 2022
Children's hospitals fill up as respiratory illness takes hold
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Hospitals in at least 26 states have seen an early wave of illnesses like RSV, the flu and other common respiratory viruses.

A surge in respiratory illnesses among children is beginning to put a strain on hospitals.

An early increase in seasonal flu activity has been reported in most of the United States, with the nation's Southeast and south-central areas reporting the highest levels of flu, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, hospitals are seeing a rise in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a common cold virus that can be associated with severe disease in young children and older adults.

Connecticut Children's Hospital in Hartford is over capacity due to children admitted for RSV, WTNH reports.

"RSV admissions have skyrocketed at Connecticut Children's.October has been like never before for this virus," Monica M. Buchanan, senior director of strategic and enterprise communications for Connecticut Children's Hospital told CNN. "We have been averaging anywhere from 15-25 borders in the Emergency Department a night for the past two weeks."

Buchanan said Hospital leaders have met with the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the National Guard to begin logistic review of putting a mobile field hospital in the front lawn and more work is planned Thursday to determine a final decision and get approval.

"Certainly in the Northeast, I think this is unprecedented. We've never seen this before, and it's creating challenges," Dr. Juan Salazar, executive vice president and physician-in-chief at Connecticut Children's Hospital told WVIT. "Because they're all coming at such high numbers, it's creating a challenge for us to be able to have everyone hospitalized who needs to be hospitalized in the way we normally do it."

Surveillance data collected by the CDC clearly shows a rise in RSV cases nationwide in recent weeks, with cases detected by PCR tests more than tripling over the past two months and nearing last year's peaks. The CDC's surveillance program captures data from 75 counties representing about 9% of the total US population.

The rise in cases is also coming earlier in the year than doctors would usually expect.

"We used to have kind of a seasonality to different viruses," Dr. Thomas Murray, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Yale University School of Medicine told CNN affiliate WFSB. "Like the one right now, respiratory syncytial virus or RSV would come in December, it would go away followed by influenza, it would go away and another one. What seemed to happen with Covid is that now they're all circulating at the same time."

The same has been true of the flu.

"Here we are in the middle of October -- not the middle of November -- we're already seeing scattered influenza cases, even hospitalized influenza cases, around the country," Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases told CNN.

The CDC says an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu and recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get a flu vaccine.


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