DES MOINES, Iowa — The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has been filling pediatric ICUs all over the nation for the last several months.
Now with the heart of flu season approaching, local pediatricians say that their ICU bed space is becoming even more limited.
“Right now, across the country over 90% of our pediatric ICU beds are full,” said Dr. Jessica Zuzga-Reed, the Medical Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at MercyOne Des Moines. “We are lacking staffing, we have more patients than we are ever accustomed to and the combination of that is our greatest challenge.”
MercyOne estimated several weeks ago that their pediatric ICU was 50% full of just RSV cases alone, and it’s even more now. At Blank Children’s Hospital, the month of October was record setting for the number of children they saw.
“Right now we are seeing about 150% of our numbers,” said Dr. Julie Anderson-Suddarth, the Department Chair of Pediatric Care at Blank Children’s Hospital. “October of 2022 in our emergency department is the busiest that we have ever been. We’re seeing lots and lots more kids than we normally do, record numbers every single day.”
And because of the large number of children local hospitals are seeing every day, both pediatricians want parents to know what to look out for and be aware of how it spreads.
“When you sneeze or cough and you have RSV, the particles are present in the air that you have sneezed out or coughed out and could be contracted by somebody that’s near you within a few feet,” said Zuzga-Reed.
Coughing, wheezing, fever and a decreased appetite are what parents need to look out for in mild cases.
“Those kids that need to be hospitalized are those children that need oxygen or need IV fluids,” said Anderson-Suddarth. “Children obviously don’t want to drink as much when their ill … if their mouth is looking sticky, they’re having less than three damp diapers in 24 hours. And for respiratory symptoms they’ll be breathing faster. You’ll notice their ribs look like they are sucking in, or you look at their breastbone and it looks like they are sucking in a lot.”
Both doctors agreed that parents can call their local doctor’s office if they think the symptoms are mild, that way the ICU beds can stay open for the severe cases.
Pfizer is currently working on getting a new and improved RSV vaccine and plan on asking for FDA approval to rollout the vaccine in 2023.