'Unprecedented pediatric surge' of RSV

‘Unprecedented pediatric surge’ of RSV

Pediatric intensive care units in Massachusetts are bursting at the seams as physicians face an unusually early and severe season of respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV, in addition to other circulating respiratory viruses. Dr. Brian Cummings, medical director of the department of pediatrics at Mass. General for Children, described the situation as an “inpatient bed crisis.””Today in our pediatric ICU, our ICU is completely full. We actually have seven patients that are outside the pediatric ICU that would normally be transferred into the pediatric ICU but we are forced to care for them out of the traditional ICU setting,” said Cummings. Dr. Paul Biddinger, chief preparedness and continuity officer at Mass. General Brigham, added that the hospital’s ICU is at a “150% capacity” given the number of children in their care with severe illnesses. MGH saw around 2,000 cases of RSV during October and over 1,000 in the first week of November, Cummings said. Most cases are treated at urgent care facilities or emergency departments and patients can recover at home, but Cummings said the MGH system has cared for 250 hospitalized RSV patients in addition to those sickened by other circulating viruses. “It’s been escalating and been quite severe,” he said. “Why is this happening now? Well, over the last two years, our children really haven’t been exposed to the routine viruses,” said Dr. Alexy Arauz Boudreau, MGH’s associate chief of pediatrics for primary care. “And now that they’re no longer masking or social distancing, their immune systems are encountering new viruses.” RSV is a common cold virus but can be a cause of severe disease in younger children and older adults with weaker immune systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that infants, especially those of six months or younger, and older adults that are 65 or older, are at higher risk for severe infection.”The younger you are when you get infected, the more likely you are to have a more acute presentation. Our patients, the youngest patients, are at highest risk of needing hospitalization,” said Dr. Cummings.Cummings also mentioned that because of the recent surge in viral patient admissions, the hospital had to cancel some pediatric surgeries. “We were, unfortunately, forced to cancel pediatric surgeries this week to the great disappointment of our staff and our families,” Cummings said. “But that is an unfortunate reality right now because we have to make difficult decisions about where to place patients.” A severe RSV infection can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis, which can require hospitalization.Christina Padove knew something was wrong when her son Charlie was struggling to breath. He had a case of RSV and was rushed to the hospital, where he spent eight days in the pediatric ICU. “You’re just helpless, like, you can’t help them,” Padove said. “There’s nothing you can do. All they can have is oxygen and we just have to ride it out.”Around the same time, Padove’s sister-in-law Kristin Sementelli was facing the same thing. The Westwood native’s son was sick too, just two days after celebrating his first birthday. “They called around to other hospitals to see if there was any beds available elsewhere and there weren’t,” Sementelli said.Federal data show that this year’s RSV cases in Massachusetts has surpassed last year’s peak in cases.Adults can also get RSV and transmit the virus, Dr. Helen Boucher, Dean of Tufts University School of Medicine, told NewsCenter 5 in a recent interview. Although they may show common cold symptoms, infected adults will be contagious for three to eight days and should follow steps to prevent transmission to others, especially to those high at risk. Transmission of the virus can be prevented by covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often with soap and water, avoiding close contact with others and frequently cleaning touched surfaces like doorknobs, according to the CDC. Currently, there is no vaccine available for RSV. However, Pfizer said the company is wrapping up a clinical trial that is showing good results and hopes to win government approval for the vaccine by this time next year.

BOSTON —

Pediatric intensive care units in Massachusetts are bursting at the seams as physicians face an unusually early and severe season of respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV, in addition to other circulating respiratory viruses.

Dr. Brian Cummings, medical director of the department of pediatrics at Mass. General for Children, described the situation as an “inpatient bed crisis.”

“Today in our pediatric ICU, our ICU is completely full. We actually have seven patients that are outside the pediatric ICU that would normally be transferred into the pediatric ICU but we are forced to care for them out of the traditional ICU setting,” said Cummings.

Dr. Paul Biddinger, chief preparedness and continuity officer at Mass. General Brigham, added that the hospital’s ICU is at a “150% capacity” given the number of children in their care with severe illnesses.

MGH saw around 2,000 cases of RSV during October and over 1,000 in the first week of November, Cummings said. Most cases are treated at urgent care facilities or emergency departments and patients can recover at home, but Cummings said the MGH system has cared for 250 hospitalized RSV patients in addition to those sickened by other circulating viruses.

“It’s been escalating and been quite severe,” he said.

“Why is this happening now? Well, over the last two years, our children really haven’t been exposed to the routine viruses,” said Dr. Alexy Arauz Boudreau, MGH’s associate chief of pediatrics for primary care. “And now that they’re no longer masking or social distancing, their immune systems are encountering new viruses.”

RSV is a common cold virus but can be a cause of severe disease in younger children and older adults with weaker immune systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that infants, especially those of six months or younger, and older adults that are 65 or older, are at higher risk for severe infection.

“The younger you are when you get infected, the more likely you are to have a more acute presentation. Our patients, the youngest patients, are at highest risk of needing hospitalization,” said Dr. Cummings.

Cummings also mentioned that because of the recent surge in viral patient admissions, the hospital had to cancel some pediatric surgeries.

“We were, unfortunately, forced to cancel pediatric surgeries this week to the great disappointment of our staff and our families,” Cummings said. “But that is an unfortunate reality right now because we have to make difficult decisions about where to place patients.”

A severe RSV infection can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis, which can require hospitalization.

Christina Padove knew something was wrong when her son Charlie was struggling to breath. He had a case of RSV and was rushed to the hospital, where he spent eight days in the pediatric ICU.

“You’re just helpless, like, you can’t help them,” Padove said. “There’s nothing you can do. All they can have is oxygen and we just have to ride it out.”

Around the same time, Padove’s sister-in-law Kristin Sementelli was facing the same thing. The Westwood native’s son was sick too, just two days after celebrating his first birthday.

“They called around to other hospitals to see if there was any beds available elsewhere and there weren’t,” Sementelli said.

Federal data show that this year’s RSV cases in Massachusetts has surpassed last year’s peak in cases.

Adults can also get RSV and transmit the virus, Dr. Helen Boucher, Dean of Tufts University School of Medicine, told NewsCenter 5 in a recent interview. Although they may show common cold symptoms, infected adults will be contagious for three to eight days and should follow steps to prevent transmission to others, especially to those high at risk.

Transmission of the virus can be prevented by covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often with soap and water, avoiding close contact with others and frequently cleaning touched surfaces like doorknobs, according to the CDC.

Currently, there is no vaccine available for RSV. However, Pfizer said the company is wrapping up a clinical trial that is showing good results and hopes to win government approval for the vaccine by this time next year.

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