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Central Pa. hospitals seeing rise in Respiratory Syncytial Virus cases

They say the rise in cases is most likely caused by the lack of exposure kids had as a result of COVID-19 safety guidelines.

YORK, Pa. — Health experts with UPMC say they are seeing more children being admitted to the hospital with RSV.

Nearly 100% of kids get infected with what's called Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) by age two. The common virus is typically mild but it's also the number one cause of infant hospitalizations.

"I'm going to guess that our current levels are roughly twice what they were at the peak of last year," said Dr. John Goldman with UPMC.

UPMC says it is very close to its capacity but is not yet running out of pediatric intensive care unit hospital beds. 

They say the rise in cases is most likely caused by the lack of exposure kids had as a result of COVID-19 safety guidelines.

"With social distancing and masking in the last couple of years, fewer kids were exposed, fewer kids got pre-existing immunity. So the disease is relatively widespread, it's spreading quickly, and causing [a] more severe disease," said Dr. Goldman.

Doctors expect this winter to be a busy one for them.

"We've seen a slight increase in COVID-19 throughout the country, from around 30 to around 50 cases, an increase in RSV cases and an increase in flu cases," said Dr. Goldman.

Other hospitals across the region are also seeing a rise in RSV cases.

Penn State Health said in a statement:

Similar to other children’s hospitals regionally and nationally, Penn State Health Children’s Hospital is seeing an unprecedented volume of pediatric patients with respiratory illnesses. This includes cases coming from our Emergency Departments and outpatient clinics. We are also seeing a high volume of inpatients who require the critical care we provide and many transfer requests from other hospitals in and out of state.

The leadership team at the Children’s Hospital is meeting several times a day to assess the evolving situation and find ways to create additional capacity while ensuring safe and effective care to all patients in need. This includes utilizing the pediatric inpatient capabilities across the six hospitals of Penn State Health. This ensures our pediatric patients receive the care they need from the full breadth of our trained pediatric providers and pediatric nurses.

Wellspan Health said in a statement:

Cases of RSV are rising locally and regionally, and RSV infections requiring hospitalization have also increased. The situation is very fluid, and capacities around the region change on a daily, if not hourly basis. At WellSpan Health, we have continued to see an increase in the number of pediatrics patients experiencing moderate to severe RSV symptoms in recent weeks, along with other respiratory illnesses. While WellSpan York Hospital does not have a formal pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), the pediatric unit is staffed 24/7 by a dedicated team of pediatric hospitalists who treat patients up to an intermediate level of care (one step below that of a PICU) as needed. 

When PICU care is needed, WellSpan utilizes a system known as WellTrack that allows us to regularly communicate with regional partners, as well as coordinate ground and air transport to transfer children to another facility, if needed. Approximately 5% of children admitted with RSV at WellSpan York Hospital may require transfer to a PICU. Recently, we have experienced some challenges at times due to regional PICU availability with transferring patients that require a PICU level of care due to significant respiratory distress and the need for ventilatory support, but in those instances, we expand our search beyond South Central Pa. to ensure our patients always receive high-quality care in the most appropriate setting for their illness. But again, the situation is very fluid, and we work collaboratively with other health systems to find the best solutions.

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