Surge of RSV leads to pediatric bed shortages at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital

University of Michigan Health CS Mott Children’s Hospital is experiencing pediatric bed shortages and longer wait times in the emergency department due to a surge in pediatric respiratory illnesses, particularly RSV.

The hospital has seen 259 cases of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) so far this season. That’s a 46% increase over 2021 and health leaders expect even more cases during flu season and a winter that could bring another spike in COVID cases.

“We have never seen a surge in pediatric respiratory viruses like this before. Our hospital is 100% full,” said Luanne Thomas Ewald, FACHE, chief operating officer at Mott and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital. “This is incredibly concerning because we haven’t even seen the full impact of flu season yet.”

Reading: Is it RSV, a cold, the flu or COVID? What to know about the differences between illnesses

What to do if children show signs of respiratory illness

Mott experts are urging parents to call their primary care provider first to determine if they need an in-person visit with their doctor or urgent care.

“The vast majority of children with RSV experience cold symptoms and can rest and recover at home,” said Kimberly Monroe, MD, MS, interim chief clinical officer and pediatric hospitalist at Mott. “However, if they’re showing any signs of severe illness, such as trouble breathing, they may need immediate care and should be brought to the emergency department. We’re particularly concerned about children under the age of two.”

Children who do come to the Mott emergency department may have to wait for several hours.

“We’re working very closely with our partners around the state to find space for children who need care even if it’s not at our hospital. We’re also looking at unique ways to increase our bed capacity during the surge,” she said. “Because of the tremendous pediatric patient volume we’re seeing, wait times in our emergency department may be much longer than usual,” she added. “Our doctors, nurses and staff are working hard to provide exceptional care for every child, and we ask for everyone’s patience during this unusually busy time.”

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. While most people recover in a week or two, it can be a serious illness for infants and older adults.

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than one in the United States.

People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected. Symptoms appear in stages, not all at once. In very young infants, some of the only symptoms might be irritability, decreased activity and breathing difficulties.

Symptoms usually include the following:

  • Runny nose

  • Decrease in appetite

  • coughing

  • snowing

  • fever

  • wheezing

The only current way to treat RSV is through pain management and drinking enough fluids. Make sure to speak to your healthcare provider before giving children nonprescription cold medicines.

Click here to learn more about RSV.

Reading: 6-year-old boy dies from complications of RSV in Oakland County

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