Aesop Light, a 4-month-old boy, was alert and happy on Sunday night. He was struggling to breathe by Monday morning.
Tara Light and Corey Light took Aesop to an emergency room in the Chicago suburbs. However, the hospital didn’t have a children’s wing so Aesop had to be rushed to an ambulance at another hospital one hour away. Aesop was diagnosed with a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus that can cause lung infections.
Tara stated that Aesop’s health “went downhill really quickly.”
RSV cases have increased in hospitals across the country over the past three to four
weeks. Doctors were surprised to learn that the virus started to circulate in the summer. It usually peaks in winter.
RSV symptoms can look similar to the common cold for many children. For others, such as young children or those with weakened immune systems or lung diseases, symptoms of RSV can be much more severe.
“The infants under four months are most likely to become sick,” said Dr. Sameer Kamath. The older ones are more likely to become sick if they have other medical conditions, said Dr. Sameer Kamath.
RSV can cause bronchiolitis. This is an infection that causes the airways to become inflamed, and clogged, and makes it difficult for you to breathe. It can lead to pneumonia if the infection reaches the lung sacs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that RSV causes around 58,000 annual hospitalizations and 100-300 deaths in children aged under 5.
After his heart and breathing rates spiked, Aesop was transferred to a pediatric ICU. Tara, who still breastfeeds, has been staying in the hospital with him. Corey has been driving back and forth to care for their three other children.
Six doctors from five states — California (Illinois), Massachusetts (Massachusetts), North Carolina (North Carolina), and Rhode Island — stated that their pediatric hospital beds have been reduced by an influx of RSV-positive patients.
“We’re having a capacity problem as I’ve never seen before,” said Dr. Charlotte Boney, pediatrician-in-chief at Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Although the CDC does not keep a national record of RSV deaths, RSV hospitalizations, or cases, it keeps track of changes in the spread of the virus.
A spokesperson for the CDC stated that RSV has been increasing in several U.S. states, with some areas nearing peak seasons.
According to CDC data, almost 5,000 positive tests were performed last week. This is not too far off the October 2021 number, but it’s much higher than October 2020.
Boney stated that her hospital saw a greater number of patients in September than at any time before, with many of them having RSV. Because there were no beds available, her pediatric ICU was closed on Wednesday to accommodate new patients.
Boney stated that in a normal winter her emergency room could see about 100 children per day. The current number of patients is between 130 and 150. She added that many RSV patients from Massachusetts are being moved to neighboring states.
Dr. Michael Koster is the director of pediatric infectious disease at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island. He said that his hospital has treated some RSV patients more than 100 miles away.
Kamath stated that there were nights when only one bed was available in three institutions around Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. This is extremely scary.
Comer Children’s Hospital Chicago has been overcrowded for more than a month. The hospital’s physician-in-chief, Dr. John Cunningham said that the emergency room has seen a 150% increase in volume usual for October. According to Dr. John Cunningham, the hospital treats between 10 and 30 RSV patients at any given time. This means that they take up a lot of the emergency rooms’ 30 ICU beds and 60 beds.
Cunningham’s hospital can direct some patients to other facilities. However, it can take up to 24 hours to transfer a patient, and a child could become more serious.
“Depending on the severity, it’s not exaggerated to say minutes matter, it’s not an exaggeration,” Dr. Benny Joyner said, medical director of UNC pediatric ICU in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
According to Dr. John Bradley (the hospital’s medical director for infectious diseases), 50 people have tested positive for RSV in San Diego over the past few days. Bradley said that the number of RSV-positive patients has increased by “two to threefold” from what he had ever seen.
Bradley said that an epidemic of RSV in San Diego is virtually unheard-of by mid-October.
A severe RSV case.
Doctors believe that RSV is spreading faster than expected this year, resulting in more severe illnesses in some children. This is because many children were not exposed to respiratory viruses during the pandemic.
“All these infection control measures protected me from all these viruses. Boney stated that everyone has now relaxed the measures and that viruses are back with a vengeance.
Doctors stated that they have seen many children infected by RSV, including those who were infected by older siblings. The Light family believes that Aesop contracted RSV from their daughter in the first grade, their son in prekindergarten, and their 2-year-old daughter at the house. All of the family experienced cold-like symptoms last week.
Cunningham stated that it is a contact disease. Hand hygiene is the most important thing. It disperses most effectively by direct contact with you, and not by someone coughing on your face.
According to doctors, parents should not worry about every runny nose or cough. However, they should be alert for signs such as a child being lethargic or having difficulty breathing.
Koster stated, “If your child is flaring their nostrils, grunting or head bobbing, or you see sucking in around collarbones or the ribs that are more concerning, then that’s even more worrying.”
Kamath stated that many children who come to the hospital can’t drink or eat because their breathing is so fast. Joyner stated that if your child is unable to drink liquids, it’s a sign that they need to be brought in for evaluation.
Corey stated that Aesop Light displayed many of these warning signs. The doctors advised the Lights that their son required oxygen support. Tubes were inserted into the Lights’ nostrils to remove the mucus.
Aesop finally was able to breathe on Thursday.
RSV-infected children usually recover in two to three days. Kamath stated that a few of them end up in ICU and sometimes on ventilators.
Joyner says that ICU patients usually recover in one week.
RSV vaccines are coming soon.
Doctors don’t have many options to treat RSV other than ventilators, breathing tubes, and fluid support.
RSV is not treated with a Paxlovid-like drug. Boney stated that there is no Tamiflu drug for RSV like we have for influenza.
Synagis is a monoclonal anti-viral drug that has been approved for infants at high risk, such as premature babies or those with chronic heart and lung conditions. Doctors said that they only give this treatment occasionally.
Bradley stated that his San Diego hospital will participate in a Pfizer clinical trial for an RSV antiviral later this year.
He said, “I have already told Pfizer to hurry up and get the study up and running.” “We are overwhelmed by RSV so it would be simple to study the drug now.”
Pfizer is also testing an RSV vaccine candidate. It was found to be almost 86% effective in preventing severe disease in a late-stage study of older adults. According to data released Thursday, another RSV vaccine candidate from GSK was found to be about 83% effective against the disease in adults 60 years and older.
Bradley said it would take a few more years before an RSV vaccine is available. He said that oxygen support is extremely effective in the interim.
It’s not a lung infection. The virus doesn’t spread to other parts of the body as influenza
does. He said that the children feel fine once they have oxygen and their lungs function properly.