Nearly 100% of pediatric beds in Rhode Island, Washington DC and Arizona filled amid flu surge
Nearly 100% of pediatric beds in Rhode Island, Washington DC and Arizona filled amid flu surge
Pediatric hospitals in Arizona, Rhode Island and Washington DC are overwhelmed by the recent rise in respiratory illnesses as this winter’s ‘triple epidemic’ sweeps the nation — and officials are calling for a state of emergency.
The the country is hit by a terrible flu epidemic — the worst in 10 years — and an unusually early and aggressive wave of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is mild for most adults but can be serious in minors, while Covid is expected to return in the coming months.
On Sunday and Monday, every bed at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island was full, while pediatric hospitals in Washington DC and Arizona were at 98 and 96 percent capacity, respectively.
The national situation isn’t much better — on average, 78 percent of pediatric beds are occupied, most with respiratory virus patients, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Tuesday a Michigan health system with nearly two dozen facilities banned visits to children under the age of five due to the virus epidemic among young people.
dr. Frank Overly, medical director of pediatric emergency medicine at Hasbro in Rhode Island — the state’s only children’s hospital — asked Gov. Daniel McKee to declare a state of emergency because of the crisis.
He said that medics are forced to treat child patients in hospital corridors, and every day up to 40 families remain languishing in waiting rooms for up to nine hours.
Officials across the country say RSV is the main culprit behind the rise, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed more than 18.9 percent of PCR tests for the virus were positive — the highest level in two years.
During the week ending October 29, according to the latest available data, there were 7,119 new RSV infections. The peak of 9,832 cases was reached on October 22. This is probably an underestimate as the virus is not being tested to the same extent as Covid.
Experts have long warned that this year’s flu season will be more devastating than previous years. Annual respiratory viruses have mostly disappeared amid quarantines and mask orders during the Covid pandemic.
These restrictions have meant that many Americans – especially children – do not have adequate immune defenses against these viruses, leaving them vulnerable to more severe infection.
Major pediatric hospitals in states hardest hit by influenza and RSV outbreaks are at or near capacity, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports.
The flu has spread rapidly across America in recent months, with the number of states reporting ‘high’ flu activity rising from two during the week ending October 8-11.
Confirmed PCR cases in the US peaked two weeks ago, but test positivity rose to 18.9 percent this week, a point not reached in two years. This signals that the number of cases is rising even as official figures are falling
Flu cases are rising rapidly in the US, according to the CDC, surpassing the 7,000 mark during the last week of October
HHS reports that thousands of hospitals across America are currently near capacity. These hospitals are mostly concentrated in more populated areas of the country.
dr. Overly told NBC that his staff was so busy with a large number of patients that he had to take on duties like cleaning beds and bringing patients in from the waiting room for treatment.
Some of Rhode Island’s adult hospitals are accepting pediatric patients to help ease the surge Hasbro is facing.
Patients requiring more intensive care are also diverted to the neighboring states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
The hospital director is hoping Democratic Gov. McKee will declare a state of emergency, which would allocate more funding to his hospital, help bring in more staff and reduce administrative duties.
“With the resources we have, we are struggling to provide the normal care we could provide,” he said.
‘When you have limited resources, you kind of stretch things out, which means the care is probably different to what it would be in normal times.’
The order would free up more funds for hospitals to use to hire temporary staff and purchase additional equipment. It would also reduce some of the paperwork burden that hospitals face.
Partial hospital ‘lockdown’: Michigan health system BANNES visits to all children under 5 due to RSV and flu outbreak in pediatric wards
A Michigan health system is barring children under the age of five from visiting its hospitals because of an outbreak of respiratory viruses in pediatric wards.
Corewell Health East, which operates 22 clinics across the state, will admit young children only if a family member is very ill — or there is an end-of-life situation.
It comes after 13 schools in Alabama switched to distance learning amid a serious outbreak of seasonal illnesses.
Children five years of age and younger are especially vulnerable to the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — both of which are on the rise across Michigan and the US.
There has been a 500 per cent jump in positive tests for respiratory viruses among minors in Corewell in recent weeks – suggesting a hospital-based spread.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 7,119 new RSV infections during the week ending Oct. 29 — up from fewer than 2,000 in August.
Just over 7,500 flu cases were also reported nationwide that week — up from just a few hundred in August.
An unusually early and aggressive surge filled pediatric hospitals across the country — with 78 percent of beds occupied across the U.S. and 72 percent in Michigan.
Americans are thought to be especially at risk of serious illness this year because stay-at-home orders have deprived them of exposure to healthy germs.
“We are seeing an unprecedented number of patients in our emergency departments and upper respiratory tract infections caused by RSV,” Dr. Matthew Denenberg, chief of pediatrics at the hospital system, told ABC.
‘This was a really early and difficult year for RSV. Worse than any other year I’ve seen. I’ve been doing this for 20 years.’
Nationwide Children’s Hospital — the largest pediatric unit in Washington, DC — also treats patients in hospital corridors and in flexible rooms built out of the former clinic space.
The hospital is at 99 percent capacity as of Wednesday morning, according to HHS.
dr. Sarah Combs, a doctor at the hospital, told NBC that the Northwest DC hospital is operating at nearly full capacity, and even the waiting room is full.
Arizona has also been hit by a wave of pediatric patients with respiratory illnesses. Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the largest in the state, is at 94 percent capacity.
While common respiratory viruses are often harmless to adults, they can be devastating to young children.
The CDC reports that up to 500 children in the US die from RSV each year.
An infected child can get pneumonia or inflammation of the airways in the lungs. These are potentially fatal symptoms.
Health officials have long warned that this year’s flu season will be more brutal than in years past.
Common viruses like the flu largely disappeared during the first two years of the Covid pandemic as masking and social distancing prevented their spread.
However, this year they have returned, as many do not have the necessary immune protection to fight the virus.
Some have even warned of a ‘triple epidemic’ as flu, RSV and Covid usually peak at the end of the year.
Confirmed RSV cases reached 9,832 during the week ending Oct. 22, according to the CDC.
While the weekly numbers have since fallen, the jump in positive tests signals that the true number of cases is rising.
Test positivity is considered a more accurate measure of an outbreak because it takes into account fluctuations in the number of tests performed.
The 18.9 percent positive test rate is the highest this season so far – up from just 15 percent last week, and higher than at any point in the past two years.
During the same week last year, only nine percent of tests were positive.
The flu has spread across America for the first time since Covid took hold, and the South of the US was hit the hardest.
According to the CDC, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee are reporting ‘very high’ levels of flu activity – as of October 29th.
In Tennessee, 8.7 percent of outpatients at the state’s hospitals showed flu-like symptoms — exceeding the CDC’s baseline of 3.1 percent as an acceptable level.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which includes Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. – the Volunteer State’s largest children’s hospital, was at 98 percent capacity Wednesday morning, according to HHS.
Alabama’s figure eclipsed 10 percent during the last week of October — tripling from three percent just two weeks earlier. According to official government data, outpatients showing flu-like symptoms peaked at around five percent in late 2021.
The outbreak has reached such a point in north Alabama that the Marshall County School District — which includes 5,000 students in 13 schools — switched to remote learning this week.
Children’s Hospital of Alabama at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the state’s largest pediatric facility, has only seven percent of available beds, according to HHS data.
South Carolina is also seeing incredibly high rates of flu-like symptoms. Just under 11 percent of outpatients in the Palmetto State show flu-like symptoms.
The Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center — which includes the state’s largest children’s hospital — reported it was at 87 percent capacity Wednesday morning.
The CDC also reports ‘very high’ flu activity in Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas and North Carolina.
While other viruses are on the rise, Covid cases have remained flat in recent weeks – even as the cold months that have typically brought a new wave in previous years arrive.
The US is currently seeing 40,000 new infections each day, a five percent increase over the past two weeks.
America is also suffering 308 deaths a day from the virus, a 14 percent drop in two weeks.
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