Children with respiratory illnesses with RSV are flooding Chicago-area children’s hospitals, leading to long ER waits, occasionally delayed surgeries and difficulty transferring pediatric patients between hospitals.

RSV, which stands for respiratory syncytial virus, can cause runny nose, cough and fever, and in most people is mild and resolves within a week or two. But sometimes it can be very serious, especially in children, it causes pneumonia and inflammation of the small airways in the lungs. Each year, 1% to 2% of children under 6 months of age who contract RSV may require hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

RSV usually peaks in the late fall and winter, but this year it arrived earlier and is making some older kids sick, too. It comes at the top Early swelling of other respiratory diseases That kept Chicago-area children’s hospitals packed for months.

Dr. Frank Belmonte, chief medical officer at Advocate Children’s Hospital, tweeted about other similar surgeries: “We are in a critical crisis and we need all hands on our babies!!! parts of the country.

In Chicago, the percentage of emergency room visits for RSV among children younger than 5 years old was nearly 10 times higher in 2019 compared to the same time period, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Dr. Marcelo Malaccotti, associate chief medical officer at Lurie Children’s Hospital, said: “We are coming out of an epidemic where many children are not exposed because we are social distancing and trying to protect ourselves. “This was a precedent for children who had not been exposed to the virus before and this may be the first time.”

Some doctors have compared this RSV surgery to what they experienced in adults’ hospitals in March 2020.

The University of Chicago Medical Center Children’s Hospital has been full for 53 days in a row. Since Sept. 1, Comer has accepted more than 670 sick children transferred from other hospitals, but has had to turn down nearly 500 transfer requests because it doesn’t have another bed, Comer executives said in an email to everyone. Chicago Medical Staff and Teachers October 27.

In recent years, many Chicago area community hospitals have They have closed their children’s patient roomsThat is, when they catch very sick children, they often have to transfer them to another place.

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

Comer is seeing 150% more patients in the emergency room than it saw at this time last year. In the one month period from September to October this year, the number of patients visiting the Comer ER increased by about 32 percent.

“It’s very serious,” said Dr. John Cunningham, Comer’s chief physician. In the past, most children with RSV were 1 or 2 years old, they noted. Now the hospital is seeing 4 and 5 year olds. “Children have been spared in the last two years (and) now they have delayed RSV.”

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

Lurie had to deal with more transfer requests from other hospitals than usual.

Comer and Lurie delayed some operations to open more beds. The hospitals also had to put some children in the ERS, which meant keeping them in ER beds until beds opened up elsewhere in the hospitals.

“It’s clearly overburdening child health systems,” Malacotti said.

RSV rates are also high in other areas of the country, with some It is said that there are hospitals in other regions. Consider pitching tents outside ERs, doubling up kids in rooms, and calling in the National Guard for backup.

Doctors at Lurie and Comer say they don’t need to take those steps now. But they are trying to be creative.

The University of Chicago Medicine is asking medical professionals who normally care for adults to volunteer for part-time shifts working with children at COMER.

In the afternoons and evenings, Comer is trying to use the fourth-floor room as a “fast track” area for kids arriving at the ER to relieve pressure from the ER. It is also moving some older pediatric patients to adult beds at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Comer is looking at converting some of its regular beds to intensive care beds.

Despite the high number of children infected with RSV, Malakoti said cases have yet to peak and the situation could get worse before it gets better.

Children’s hospitals are also struggling to keep up with the flu season, which some predict will be the worst it’s been in years. The Chicago Department of Public Health says the chance of getting the flu in Chicago for the week of Oct. 22 is low, though on the rise.

Pediatricians are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu. Doctors advise parents to keep their children home if they are sick, make sure to wash their hands, call their pediatricians if their children are sick, and take them to ERs if there is an emergency.

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

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