CLEVELAND (WJW) — An alarming increase in respiratory illnesses affecting children is prompting the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association to ask President Joe Biden to declare an emergency, in support of a national response to the surge.
The move would allow hospitals to share resources and have access to emergency funds to meet the need for additional medical personnel.
Doctors at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland say their entire medical team is being overwhelmed by cases of young patients infected with a wave of viruses. They range from the rhinovirus — which in older patients causes the common cold but makes children more seriously ill — influenza and RSV, which is spiking in Ohio and across the country.
“We had kind of low years for the past two years, probably related to the fact that everybody was masking. And we’ve gotten a little bit more lax with masking as the COVID numbers have decreased. And this is the normal beginning of influenza season, so it just happens to be an overlap of early RSV infections and kind of normal flu,” Dr. Ethan Leonard, chief medical officer at Rainbow, told FOX 8.
There are so many children suffering from the various viruses that Rainbow is now at 95% capacity.
“We’ve had to open up extra units, which means bringing in more staff and stretching staff, asking them to do more — and that’s true of our nurses, our respiratory therapists and our physicians,” said Leonard.
Doctors say there is not yet a vaccine for RSV, but to protect your children from some of the other illnesses spiking right now, a good start is the flu shot.
“Getting everybody immunized in the household who is eligible; so if your child is older than 6 months of age, they are eligible for influenza. The vaccine does contain the strains that are circulating right now. In terms of protecting your littlest kids, try to keep them from being exposed to other people who have colds,” said Leonard.
With the holiday season and large family gatherings approaching, the medical team at Rainbow is recommending that parents be prepared to ask some important questions.
“Is anybody ill? Does anybody have a cold? And if the answer to that is ‘yes,’ you politely decline if you have infant children,” he said. “If you don’t feel you can do that, asking people who may have symptoms to wear a mask except when they’re eating and drinking is fair game, but you really have to be a little bit selfish and look out for your immediate family.”