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The RSV outbreak has spread to Chicago Children’s Hospital

Children with RSV respiratory disease are overwhelming Chicago Children’s Hospitals, resulting in longer emergency room waits, occasionally delayed surgeries and difficulty transferring pediatric patients from one hospital to another.

RSV, which stands for respiratory syncytial virus, can cause a runny nose, cough, and fever, and is mild and clears up within a week or two in most people. But sometimes it can be more serious, especially in children, causing pneumonia and inflammation of the small airways in the lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1% to 2% of children under the age of 6 months who become infected with RSV may need hospitalization each year.

RSV often flares up in the late fall and winter, but this year it arrived early, and some older children are also getting sick. He goes above and beyond early swelling of other respiratory diseases which had been killing Chicago Children’s Hospital for months.

“We are in a major crisis and we absolutely need all hands on deck for our kids!!!” Dr. Frank Belmonte, chief medical officer at Advocate Children’s Hospital, tweeted Thursday in response to a tweet about similar outbreaks in others countries. parts of the country.

In Chicago, the percentage of emergency room visits by children under the age of 5 for RSV is about 10 times higher than at the same time in 2019, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“We’re coming out of a pandemic where a lot of kids weren’t exposed because we were socially isolated and trying to protect ourselves,” said Dr. Marcelo Malacuti, deputy chief medical officer at Lurie Children’s Hospital. “There was this predominance of children who may not have been exposed to the virus before, and this was perhaps the first time.”

Some doctors have compared this RSV outbreak to what adult hospitals faced in March 2020.

The University of Chicago Medical Center Comer Children’s Hospital has been full for 53 days in a row. Since Sept. 1, Comer has been able to accept more than 670 sick children transferred from other hospitals, but has had to deny about 500 other transfer requests because it no longer has available beds, Comer leaders said in an email sent to all medical staff and faculty. Chicago on October 27.

In recent years, many Chicago community hospitals have closed their children’s hospitalsthat is, if they get very sick children, they have to transfer them often.

“Unfortunately, some of these children have been transferred to hospitals as far away as St. Louis,” Comer executives said in an email to all staff about the children they could not pick up from other hospitals.

Comer is also seeing about 150% more emergency room patients than it did this time last year. In just one month, from September to October of this year, the number of patients visiting the emergency room at Comer increased by approximately 32%.

“It’s very difficult,” said Dr. John Cunningham, chief medical officer at Comer. He noted that in the past, many children with severe RSV were 1-2 years old. Children aged 4 and 5 are currently in the hospital. “The kids have been cocooned for the last couple of years (and) now they’re getting RSV late.”

Lurie Children’s Hospital is also operating at full capacity, meaning all of its beds are generally full, Malacuti said. Lurie has had two deaths from RSV so far this season, he said. Between 100 and 300 children under the age of 5 die from RSV each year in the United States.

Lurie had to turn down more transfer requests from other hospitals than usual.

Both Comer and Lurie postponed some surgeries to keep more beds open. Hospitals also had to send some children to emergency rooms, meaning keeping them in emergency beds until beds opened up at other hospitals.

“Obviously, this is overburdening the pediatric health care system,” Malakuty said.

RSV rates are also high in other areas of the country, in some hospitals in other states, as reported setting up tents outside their emergency rooms, putting children in rooms, and considering calling in the National Guard for backup.

Doctors at Lurie and Comer say they didn’t need to take any of those steps at this point. They are, however, trying to be creative.

The University of Chicago Medicine is asking medical staff who normally care for adults to volunteer to work overtime with children at Comer.

In the late afternoon and evening, Comer tries to use part of its fourth floor as a “fast-track” area for children who come to the emergency room with less serious conditions to help take pressure off the emergency room. It also transfers some older pediatric patients to adult beds at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Comer is also considering replacing some regular beds with intensive care beds.

Despite the high number of children with RSV, Malakutty said cases have not yet peaked and the situation could get worse before it gets better.

Children’s hospitals are also bracing for what some predict will be the worst flu season in years. The risk of contracting the flu remained low in Chicago during the week ending Oct. 22, although it increased, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Pediatricians urge parents to get flu shots. Doctors say parents should keep their kids home when they’re sick, make sure they wash their hands, call pediatricians when their kids are sick, and take them to the emergency room when there’s an emergency.

“We’re very concerned and we’re preparing for it as best we can,” Cunningham said.


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