RSV common respiratory virus sends more Ontario children to hospital

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 a early start of what he fears will be difficult. hit viral season.

So far this month, 30 children with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, have been admitted to CHEO Ottawa, a pediatric hospital and research center, 10 times more than a typical October month before. the pandemic, according to hospital leaders.

“We are seeing a significant number, an increased number of RSV cases and also a significant increase in hospitalizations for RSV. This is an early flare,” said Dr. Chuck Hui, Chief of Infectious Diseases, Immunology and Allergy at CHEO. “What we are currently seeing 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 struggle to keep up with patient demand in their emergency departments and prepare for what is expected to be an extremely busy winter season. Hospital chiefs say a confluence of factors is contributing to a busier than normal fall: increased demand from a combination of COVID-19 infections and seasonal respiratory illnesses, turnover and attrition in nursing jobs and absences of COVID-infected staff.

These pressures are particularly pronounced in children’s hospitals, which have been reporting for weeks that more children are showing up at pediatric emergency rooms this fall, and that others are arriving sicker and needing hospital care, pushing hospitals beyond their limits. ability. This unprecedented demand is causing surgeries to be canceled and, in some cases, seriously ill children being sent away from home for intensive care.

RSV causes respiratory infections in people of all ages, but is especially common in children under two years of age. Symptoms are usually mild and include fever, sore throat, dry cough, stuffy or runny nose, and headache. In some cases, breathing may become so labored that hospitalization is required to ensure adequate oxygen supply. In even rarer and more serious cases, patients may need to be admitted to intensive care.

CHEO emergency physician Melissa Langevin said that although RSV is very common in children, babies should be watched closely for symptoms of RSV and taken to the emergency department if they have any of the following symptoms: difficult breathing around the ribs and neck, poor feeding, drowsiness the absence of fever, pauses in breathing and fever in infants under two months of age.

In Canada, RSV season typically lasts from November to the end of February, but during the pandemic cases declined due to public health protection measures, including distancing and masking, which prevented transmission, a said Dr. Earl Rubin, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

« Now what we’re seeing, and the rest of Canada and the United States, is an RSV surge that’s earlier than expected…because younger children are unlikely to be immune due to of the pandemic, » Rubin said, adding that before COVID, most children under the age of two had been exposed to the virus and had developed some immunity.

« We’re starting to see (RSV) in children six months to 18 months…before it was mainly children under six months who needed to be hospitalized, » he said, qualifying the number of children admitted for RSV at his “huge” hospital.

Nationally, RSV activity is above expected levels for this time of year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada in its most recent report on respiratory viruses. Quebec and Ontario in particular have seen an increase in test positivity in recent weeks, with the positivity rate in Montreal and Quebec at 15% as of October 22.

Public Health Ontario reports that the overall percentage of RSV positivity 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 service is designed to handle 150 visits per day.

And it’s not just the hospital’s emergency department that’s seeing record volumes.

Occupancy in hospital medicine, where most emergency room admissions end up, was 134% on Tuesday. The pediatric intensive care unit was 129% occupied.

“We are now dealing here at CHEO and in children’s hospitals across the country with an unprecedented surge in demand – May, June, July and September being the busiest May, June, July and September months in the world. history of this organization, which is almost 50 years old,” Munter said during a press briefing on the situation facing the hospital on Wednesday.

“Our clinicians, our staff are working as hard as they can. We innovate, we change processes, we recruit new staff, but we know that wait times are longer than you would like. They are longer than we would like.


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