Doctors are seeing a “significant increase” in cases of a common respiratory virus that is sending more children to emergency departments in parts of Ontario and Quebec, prompting a hospital to issue a warning about starting early. what he fears will be a hard- hitting viral season.
So far this month, 30 children with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, have been admitted to Ottawa’s CHEO, a children’s hospital and research facility, 10 times more than a typical October before the pandemic, leaders say. hospital.
“We are seeing a significant number, an increase in the number of RSV cases and also a significant increase in RSV hospitalizations. This is an early rise,” said Dr. Chuck Hui, CHEO’s chief of infectious diseases, immunology and allergies. “What we are seeing right now in terms of RSV at CHEO also reflects what is happening in the rest of Ontario and what we are seeing south of the border.”
The warning comes as hospitals across the province are struggling to keep up with demand of patients in their emergency services and gearing up for what is expected to be an extraordinarily busy winter season. Hospital leaders say a confluence of factors is contributing to a busier-than-normal slump: higher demand for a mix of COVID-19 seasonal respiratory infections and illnesses, turnover and attrition in nursing positions, and absences of COVID-infected staff.
These pressures are particularly pronounced in children’s hospitals. who for weeks reported that more children will arrive in pediatric emergency departments this fall, and more will arrive sicker and require hospital care, pushing hospitals beyond capacity. This unprecedented demand is causing canceled surgeries and, in some cases, seriously ill children sent away from home for ICU care.
RSV causes respiratory infections in people of all ages, but is especially common in children under two. Symptoms are usually mild and include fever, sore throat, dry cough, stuffy or runny nose, and headache. In some cases, breathing can become so labored that hospitalization is necessary to ensure adequate oxygen intake. In even rarer and more severe cases, patients may need to be admitted to intensive care.
CHEO emergency physician Melissa Langevin said that while RSV is very common in children, babies should be closely monitored for symptoms of RSV and taken to the emergency department if they have any of the following: labored breathing severe around the ribs and neck, poor feeding, drowsiness in the absence of fever, respiratory pauses, and fever in infants less than two months.
In Canada, the RSV season typically lasts from November to the end of February, but during the pandemic cases have declined due to public health protections, including distancing and the use of masks, which have prevented transmission, Dr. Earl said. Rubin, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Montreal Children’s Hospital.
“Now what we’re seeing, and the rest of Canada and the US is seeing, is an increase in RSV sooner than expected…because younger children are unlikely to be immune due to the pandemic,” Rubin said, adding that before COVID, most children under the age of two had been exposed to the virus and developed some immunity.
“We’re starting to see (RSV) in children from six months to 18 months … before it was predominantly children under six months who needed to be in the hospital,” he said, rating the number of children admitted for RSV in his hospital as “huge”. .”
Nationwide, RSV activity is above expected levels for this time of year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada in its most recent report. respiratory virus report. Quebec and Ontario, in particular, have seen increases in test positivity in recent weeks, with the positivity rate at Montreal and Quebec City at 15 percent from October 22.
Public Health Ontario reports that the overall positivity rate for RSV remains low.
At CHEO, there were 254 emergency department visits on Tuesday, breaking the previous record of 231 from last October. CHEO President and CEO Alex Munter says the department is designed to handle 150 visits a day.
And it’s not just the hospital emergency department that is seeing record volumes.
Inpatient medicine occupancy, where most emergency admissions end up, was 134 percent Tuesday. The pediatric intensive care unit had an occupancy of 129%.
“We are dealing now here at CHEO and in children’s hospitals across the country with an unprecedented increase in demand: May, June, July and September are the busiest May, June, July and September in the history of this organization, which is almost 50 years,” Munter said during a news conference on the situation facing the hospital on Wednesday.
“Our doctors, our staff are working as hard as they can. We are innovating, we are changing processes, we are incorporating new staff, but we know that the wait is longer than you would like. They are longer than we would like.
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