RSV hospitalizations climb after Thanksgiving holiday gatherings: 'Children's hospitals are full'

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Monday, December 4, 2023
RSV hospitalizations climb after holiday gatherings
RSV cases increase at WakeMed. Parents and health experts warn now is the time to prevent exposure.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- There's worry among parents that RSV cases are climbing among kids as we head into the holidays.

People are gathering to celebrate the season and the virus spreads quickly.

"Looking at the numbers for the last couple weeks, it does seem like it's peaking," WakeMed Infection Prevention Specialist Jessica Dixon said.

In a three-day period, from Dec. 1-3, ten patients have been hospitalized at WakeMed, and there were 99 confirmed cases.

The latest data from the state shows an 11 percent increase in hospitalizations and that's up from the week prior.

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Erneka Byrd can vividly remember her infant son being admitted to the hospital and going on a ventilator.

"He did contract RSV at 5 months old and actually never recovered from it," said Byrd. "It did so much damage to his lungs that we had breathing issues throughout all his years."

She now worries for her 7-year-old daughter ahead of the holiday festivities.

"Definitely concerned about large family gatherings," said Byrd.

"It impacts the smallest lungs and the smallest patients," said UNC Health Pediatric Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Daniel Park. "The patients are getting quite sick. Our pediatric Emergency Department is constantly full, and so are our floors and ICU. So this year has been quite bad both in volume of cases and severity of cases."

There is an antibody product for infants and young children. The problem is it's in short supply.

"Right now, it is really difficult to get and it's being held for babies that are extremely high risk," said Dixon.

An RSV vaccine for pregnant women is readily available and gives babies some protection from birth to 6 months.

There's also a new vaccine for older adults over the age of 65.

To stop the spread, a medical expert suggests limiting risk during holiday gatherings.

"It's really difficult to tell your family 'Don't touch my baby,' but really that is one of the best things you can do right now if you have an infant," said Dixon.

Medical experts suggest keeping good hygiene and if your kids are sick -- make sure they don't have a fever 24-hours before you place them back in a group setting.