Doctors see increase in RSV infections among children as hospitals struggle with COVID-19 pandemic

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- When students at Creekside Elementary in Durham return to school in just a few weeks, signs about hand washing, masking, and social distancing let them know we are still in the midst of a pandemic. There is also a message that reminds them the virus took one of their classmates.

A memorial tree in front of the school honors the life of 8-year-old Aurea Soto "Yoshi" Morales, the first child in North Carolina to die from complications with COVID 19.

"She meant the world to me," her sister, Jennifer Morales told ABC 11 Sunday.

Yoshi's father, mother and sister telling us at the memorial, they struggle to accept she's gone more than a year after her death.

"We just come by, look at the tree, look at it grow, and now that kids are going back to school, I'm hoping the tree will grow beautifully next to these children, her classmates, previous classmates, friends, and teachers," said Morales.

As of Sunday, health leaders are raising concerns about more viruses that could impact children at the start of the school year.

Emergency room doctors are seeing an increase in COVID-19 infections among the unvaccinated and the respiratory virus called RSV among children.

RSV has similar symptoms to COVID-19 like cough, congestion and breathing issues, and it is more common in the Fall and Winter.

Dr. Cheryl Jackson, UNC's Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine says she's seeing a 30 percent increase in RSV cases right now compared to Summer 2019.

"This summer we are seeing an increase in RSV cases because the masks have come off. Children and adults are out and about. Viruses are always with us and RSV is one of them. It's highly contagious," said Jackson.

"They could have a common cold, they could have RSV, and they could have COVID. And there's no real way for me to tell unless I do a test."

Doctors say parents and guardians should get the COVID-19 vaccine for themselves and for children age 12 and older.

And remember to practice the 3 Ws with their child: Wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance to reduce spreading germs.

It's the same message the Morales family is sharing after each survived COVID and have been vaccinated.

A shot they wish Yoshi could have lived long enough to take.

"Take this seriously. It's no joke," said Morales.

ER doctors encourage parents to contact their primary care physician first if their child is experiencing mild symptoms. Dr. Jackson says the increase in COVID and RSV cases, coupled with staffing shortages is putting a strain on hospital resources.

There is no vaccine for RSV, just treatment of symptoms.
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