Larry Gill is glad to have his daughter home. “She was having a hard time sitting up. She wanted to sleep. She was knocking.” Five-year-old Fiona came down with RSV. She looked gray and had a high fever. She had trouble breathing. She was a very sick little girl last week.
“I had asthma when I was a kid, and I noticed not wanting to breathe, but seeing her in a place where you couldn’t breathe properly,” Gill says. “When she left the doctor’s appointment in the ambulance, they had to put her on six liters of oxygen.”
That ambulance took her to Sky Ridge Medical Center. He made several phone calls to the doctor to find out what kind of hospital he could take her to. At the time, Children’s Hospital Colorado was a 24-hour stay, but she couldn’t.
“It’s one thing to hear and see things, you know, on the news, on TV, on the radio. But for it to hit home,” Gill said. “I know everyone says, ‘I never thought it would be here,’ but to see your son, something so close to death is not something I would wish on anyone.”
There is a significant increase in RSV cases in Colorado. On Wednesday night, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a statement calling for the return of additional respiratory protection for child care facilities. That includes a suggestion that everyone in childcare facilities consider masks for people over the age of two. Fiona’s case is one of those involving older children.
Typically, 95% of severe RSV cases are in children under the age of five. But this season, it’s also hitting older people. The virus can even strike adults, but cases requiring hospitalization for adults are very rare. But hospitals are flooded with RSV cases. Add that to the flu cases as soon as the flu starts. And in Colorado, cases of Covid have been on the rise again in recent weeks. Colorado moved to the CDC’s “moderate community transmission level” last week. Together, all three are threatening the health care system’s ability to control itself and have given rise to a new phrase – “Tripledemic.”
“It’s a silly word, but I think it’s one of the best ways to describe a lot of what we’re seeing in Colorado and most of the country right now with respiratory diseases,” said Tori Burkett, director of the Denver Public Health and Environmental Epidemiology and Disease Intervention Program.
Health experts theorize that the uptick in RSV may be due to epidemics, at which time it was less widespread and less immune. “We’ve had a lot of measures in place to protect people from Covid, so distancing, masking, hand washing, all those things, so we’ve had little kids who haven’t been exposed to RSV for the last three years,” Burkett said.
RSV is still hitting babies younger than 6 months old. And that’s a group that is not considered eligible for the covid or flu vaccines. “Babies under six months are approved for flu or covid vaccine, but so are babies over six months. So we’re trying to reduce overall respiratory disease and also push vaccination. It can reduce the risk of co-infection,” Brett said. “Because what we don’t want are kids fighting blue and covid or RSV. And the flu at the same time.”
Fiona is improving and hopes to return to Kindergarten. “She’s mostly better now. She still has some breathing problems. The stairs are hard on her,” Larry Gill said. But he is very grateful for the treatment he received at Sky Ridge Medical Center. “Personality-wise, she’s tough. She really hangs in there,” her father said.