RSV spikes early, putting kids in the hospital

An increasing number of children are sick with Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV, causing some to need hospital care.
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 8:25 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - An increasing number of children are sick with Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, causing an increase in hospitalizations in our area.

A runny nose, a sore throat, and a cough are all symptoms of RSV that are generally manageable for most people, but babies under the age of six months and older individuals can have a hard time fighting it.

“Every year we have children in the University of Vermont pediatric ICU who are on ventilators. For RSV, it’s pretty common. And we are especially worried about the infants that are born prematurely and infants that have any type of lung problems,” said Dr. Becca Bell, the president of the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a pediatric critical care physician at UVM’s Children’s Hospital.

She says PICU admissions for respiratory viral illness are roughly triple from what they had been in pre-COVID fall months.

But Dr. Bell says there aren’t pediatric admissions to the hospital for COVID. In the past few months, rhinovirus and RSV cases have been leading the admissions. There have been no flu patients in the hospital this season so far.

“What we’re worrying about is, what if we’re peaking with RSV cases in the hospital and influenza around the same time? And that’s why we’re really asking everyone six months and above to get their flu shot,” Bell said.

She says different COVID mitigation eras could likely be attributed to an unusual pattern for RSV.

“Everyone gets it by the time they’re two years of age, but we just have a bigger population of kids who just haven’t seen it yet. And so I think that’s part of it as well is that our population isn’t as used to it.” said Bell.

Despite the uptick in cases, Bell says the UVM Health Network is able to accommodate all the patients, and there are enough beds at this time.

“We are planning for the potential of having a stress system here. We are not right now,” she said.

She also says UVM is in the early stages of potentially helping hospitals in southern New England that are running out of bed space. However, no children have come to UVM from that idea yet.

Dr. Bell says deaths tend to be uncommon from RSV. There aren’t vaccinations for RSV, and hospital visits are spent rehydrating and supporting the breathing of an individual.

Bell recommends if you have symptoms, you might want to hold off on visiting an infant. It’s a virus transmitted through contact or through droplets.

“Hand washing really can help and then masks, differently than COVID, can really act like a barrier here so it’s not airborne like COVID is, but it can act like a barrier if you’re going to be in close contact with someone and there may be droplets,” Bell said.

She says if babies have symptoms, parents should be making sure they can still drink, see, and eat, and that they’re having wet diapers. If they’re struggling to breathe, it’s a good idea to call your pediatrician or the hospital for support.