MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — As mask-wearing is becoming a thing of the past and the coronavirus pandemic continues, doctors are now warning about another respiratory disease spreading among infants and young children.
That disease seeing a spike is RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), a highly infectious virus responsible for illnesses like bronchitis. Normally, the pediatric division at USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital sees a spike in RSV in the winter or fall, but with a spike happening in the summer while the U.S. is still in a pandemic, it is causing some concerns.
Dr. Larry Mellick, the USA Children’s and Women’s division chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, says they have seen a dramatic increase in RSV over the last several months, and they have also seen more COVID cases in children in the last three weeks.
“It’s kind of a nuisance virus, but it loves the lungs. The virus focuses on the respiratory tract,” Dr. Mellick said. A breakdown of current COVID numbers compared to RSV looks like this:
Test Total Positive % Positive
COVID 860 64 7.4%
RSV 710 299 42%
That 42 percent positive for RSV is extremely high for the summer. In the U.S. alone, RSV is responsible for 57,000 hospitalizations annually, so this out-of-season increase is getting doctors’ attention. Multiple children at USA, including infants, are testing positive for both COVID and RSV.
Dr. Mellick says they never expected to find themselves scrambling in the middle of the summer for patient beds in the PICU and the hospital.
“RSV is just here with vengeance, and we’re seeing a lot of sick kids. And it’s not that we’re completely shutting down as far as our hospital beds or whether or not the PICU beds are full, it’s we’re starting to see those challenges — challenges that you normally see in the middle of winter now in the middle of July,” Dr. Mellick said.
Dr. Mellick says it’s not a major problem yet, but they are having to deal with limited delays in the movement out of the PED while the PICU and hospitalists find more beds. All of this is happening while the physicians prepare for the worst as children are heading back to school in the coming months.
“We just need to remain cautious, and I think everyone needs to keep their guard up, and we’ve been having meetings to kind of discuss what we’re going to do once winter comes and when the volumes traditionally increase when things become busy and the demand increases,” Dr. Mellick said.
They aren’t sure what is going to happen yet when school starts, but they are already setting up meetings to plan and prepare for the worst. They are also looking at ways to increase capacity and meet the needs of patients better.