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Pediatric hospitals face rapid increases in respiratory virus

Katie Raymond
Michigan Radio

A respiratory virus is behind a recent increase in pediatric hospitalizations in Michigan.

Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids said it's seen a 385% increase in the rate of positive RSV — respiratory syncytial virus — in babies and toddlers exhibiting symptoms of infection.

RSV can affect people of any age. For healthy adults, it’s usually just a common cold. But for babies and toddlers, it can cause fevers, dehydration, and breathing problems. Though RSV is rarely fatal, it could require pediatric hospital care.

Almost all children will be infected with RSV by their second birthday, according to the CDC. But this year, cases are rising more rapidly than usual.

Dr. Mallory Davis, an infection preventionist at DeVos Children's Hospital, said hospital staff are working on getting care for every RSV patient that comes their way.

“We are very full, and our census numbers are pretty high as we work through kind of figuring out how to accommodate all of the sick kiddos in the community,” she said.

With more pediatric RSV cases statewide, hospitals are battling increased demand for hospital beds and patient care. However, Dr. Andrea Hadley, a pediatrician, said DeVos Children's is prepared to meet the pressure.

"The good news is that we have learned so much from going through the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “Our teams are prepared to handle this."

In order to lighten the load on pediatric hospitals, Hadley recommended parents get their Covid-19 boosters and flu shots to keep severe iterations of those illnesses at bay. She also said parents should be diligent about their children’s hand washing and keep their children home if they exhibit RSV symptoms.

In most cases, Hadley said parents should contact their pediatricians before seeking hospital care.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Emily Blumberg