Children with a specific respiratory illness have been overwhelming hospitals, mainly in the Southern and Northeastern areas of the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported recent data showing Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases have spiked over the past month. RSV usually causes children to contract the usual mild-cold symptoms, but the impact could be much worse for those immunocompromised or with a heart defect.
“We have observed a rise in RSV in multiple U.S. regions, and some regions are nearing seasonal peak levels,” a CDC spokesperson told NBC News.
Dr. Juan Salazar, the physician-in-chief of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, told The Hill that cases began exponentially rising at the beginning of September, which he claims is something he has never seen before.
Young children with the virus have swamped the Hartford-based hospital, with staff debating whether to call in the U.S. National Guard and FEMA for support.
“We just don’t have as many critical care beds [for children] as we have adult critical care beds simply because we don’t usually need them,” Salazar said, according to The Hill.
Federal authorities would set up tents outside the hospital to assist with the capacity spreading the hospital staff thin.
Salazar said theories including herd immunity, immune suppression, and everyone catching the virus at the same time over the last couple of months have caused the emergency department to experience “the perfect storm.”
“Our hospital was full,” Salazar said. “Our traditional pediatric in-patient beds … we have three floors with 25 beds in each location — we can expand to 28. All of those were full this morning.”
The Hill reported Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital emergency department saw RSV cases almost double last week from 57 to 106 admissions.
The Washington Post reported several D.C.-area hospitals have also reached capacity for weeks.
Over 650 beds from three different hospitals — Children’s National Hospital in Northwest D.C., Inova Fairfax in Northern Virginia, and the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore — have hit their limit this week.
“We are treating a very high number of severely ill children,” Sarah Combs, an emergency medicine physician at Children’s National, told The Washington Post.
Sofia Teferi, a MedStar Montgomery Medical Center pediatrician, told the outlet Wednesday she could not find an intensive care bed for a 4-month-old patient in the region.
“The fact that you have to look at the parent and say your kid needs ICU-level care, but we have no bed for them: That’s a very hard conversation to have,” Teferi said. “I’m just floored by the whole thing — in the nation’s capital.”
Eric Biondi, chief of pediatric hospital medicine at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, told the outlet Thursday that the hospital, which has over 120 beds, is “completely full.”
“It’s not just a problem of how busy we are at Hopkins, which we are, but it flows out to the remote community emergency rooms that have to move kids,” he said.
NBC News reported hospitals in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Rhode Island have also seen an influx in RSV patients.
The Hill reports that signs a child may have contracted RSV include changes in breathing, grunting noises, and chest caving with each breath. Other symptoms could show the child’s skin or facial parts turning blue or purple from a lack of oxygen.