NC pediatricians brace for possible 'Tripledemic'

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Tuesday, October 25, 2022
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The surge in pediatric respiratory virus, and the threat of a potentially severe flu season and spike in COVID-19 cases have doctors concerned nationwide.

Nancy Soliman has two children--a seven-year-old boy and five year old little girl. She's doing what she can to keep her kids safe from respiratory cases this season.

"We are staying on top of them," Soliman said.

She said they try to include family time outside, getting fresh air.

"We're trying to keep them outdoors, fresh air as it goes along the way. Washing our hands, taking care of ourselves, just trying to be healthy and active, I think is very important too," she continued.

But as hard as some parents are trying to keep their children healthy, doctors are still seeing a surge of sick kids

"We are struggling with RSV, but we're struggling with flu coming in as well," Dr. Benny Joyner said. Joyner is the Division Chief of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at UNC Children's Hospital. He said the numbers that they're seeing for RSV cases are significantly higher than the numbers they saw pre-pandemic.

"The numbers that we're seeing, just by the sheer volume we're seeing of kids needing that support are pretty striking. Half of my unit right now is currently some form of viral illness, whether it's RSV rhinovirus, enterovirus, or flu," Joyner explained.

He said 30 percent of the tests they're running are positive for RSV, and that's about three times where they normally are.

What's worse? Dr. Joyner said its not peak season for RSV or Flu.

"It has been consistent and in a very sort of long period of time in which we've seen weeks of just really significant numbers of patients with viral respiratory illnesses, and there's no letting up."

Pediatrician Dr. Christoph Diaso with Sandhills Pediatrics said things have also been busy for him.

"Things have definitely picked up and increased. My colleagues who work in the hospital say that they're just absolutely beyond busy. And, you know, we're all trying to do what we can at a time that, a lot of the staff is really pretty tired, Dr. Diaso said.

Dr. Diaso, who is also the immediate past president of the North Carolina Pediatrics Society said resources are stretched, but there is good news in this sick season. He reminded parents there are vaccines that can protect your children from the flu and COVID.

"We still have a lot of people out there who have not gotten their vaccines yet. You know, the CDC has made a campaign for years to say boo to the flu, to try to encourage folks to get their flu vaccine before Halloween, I would still encourage everyone to do that," explained Diaso.

Soliman shared her kids are vaccinated and she will continue taking precautions. "We're not going to hide from life and just living and being kids and being a normal part of society. So just take it as it is. And you know, I mean, not be fearful but not fearless, but just continue to live life."

RSV can show up as mild cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, cough and fever. People infected are usually contagious for three to eight days.

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NCDHHS has a program called "Vaccines for Children", which provides free flu vaccinations for children and pregnant women who are uninsured or underinsured.

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