RALEIGH, N.C. — Respiratory viral cases are on the rise across the state.
The latest information from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows an increase of RSV 135 cases from week to week.
What You Need To Know
- RSV cases maxed out bed space statewide
- WakeMed, UNC and Duke Children's hospitals are at full capacity
- Doctor says they had to turn patients away and send them to other medical systems
- Pharmacist says public health measures used during the pandemic work now
The uptick in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has created a shortage of bed space in children’s wings at WakeMed, UNC Children’s and at Duke Children’s hospitals.
A hospital spokesperson from UNC Children’s confirmed nearly 200 RSV cases last week. UNC pediatric ICU beds are full, other patients face long waits for beds and some are being turned away to different medical systems.
Delays in elective surgeries are a reality, too.
WakeMed and Duke Children’s hospitals each face a similar crisis.
Doctors at WakeMed listed 183 RSV positive patients. Clinicians at Duke Children’s counted 241 patients with RSV under their care.
Dr. Sameer Kamath, chief medical officer at Duke Children’s, said RSV is known as a seasonal virus. The uptick begins as the weather grows colder and people huddle indoors. He said the virus had beaten that mark earlier in the year.
“I will say we’ve been doing a little bit of it, but certainly in the last two weeks we have had to redirect more patients than I can remember in my time,” Kamath said.
Kamath believes the virus is spreading from older brothers and sisters to younger siblings once they arrive home from school.
The issue has maxed out hospital rooms for children at Duke, said the doctor. Kamath said all 118 beds are full.
“I think that’s been our concern as well. We have been in a triage mode if you will for the last monthish as we saw this uptick where we are trying to give our best to the sickest children,” Kamath said.
When emergency room triage happens, medical priority is given to the patients who are in most need of immediate care. This means care is rationed for them and happens in place of a lack of resources.
Parents are asking lots of questions. Public health measures, such as face masks and social distancing used during the height of the pandemic, are no longer in greater societal view.
“As those things have gone away, and we have seen those viruses start to spread in the community,” Kamath said.
Those same protections against COVID-19 may come in handy as much now as they did then.
A pharmacist echoed the doctor’s message.
Dr. Senthilvelan Radhakrishnan owns Raleigh Pharmacy. He said washing hands, personal protective equipment and wiping down surfaces are strong counterpunches to prevent transmission.
The pharmacist said we haven’t seen the worst of the flu season, either. Radhakrishnan said many are getting their flu shots ahead of time at his store.
“This year, it seems like it is getting a little busier than last year for flu vaccines. I say there is more demand this year than the previous years,” Radhakrishnan said.
Radhakrishnan said his job is much more than filling prescriptions. There were moments when conversations at the pharmacy counter led to customers expanding their health literacy.
The druggist said most who fill their scripts at his pharmacy followed his medical advice about practicing safe habits from the novel coronavirus over the last two years.
“They were all getting vaccines, getting masks or following all of the guidelines,” the pharmacist said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list a runny nose, a decreased appetite and a cough as RSV symptoms.
Monitor more severe manifestations of the virus as well. These trouble signs are difficulty breathing and listlessness and tiredness. Both doctors listed these as reasons to seek emergency care because they can also turn into bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
Those most at risk are premature infants, infants younger than 6 months old, children under the age of 2 and kids with weak immunity to infection.
Older populations who are 65 years and older could be in danger, too. Adults with chronic lung or heart diseases are at risk, as are adults with weakened immune systems.
Clarification: This article has been updated to state there have been 200 confirmed cases of RSV at UNC Chapel-Hill hospitals.