Only 6% of pediatric ICU beds in Illinois are open as RSV cases and hospitalizations rise.

Local doctors are raising the alarm about the spread of RSV, a respiratory illness that is causing a large number of hospitalizations in children.

Currently, RSV, along with other viruses, means that most of our state’s pediatric intensive care unit beds are full.

In Illinois, there are 289 PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) beds. Ninety-four percent of them are completely full. The majority of them are in Chicago.

Rush University Medical Center shared video of therapists and nurses assisting a surge of pediatric patients hospitalized with RSV and other viruses. Protocols are in place, and the medical staff there is now treating children.

“We are seeing a huge influx of these kids coming to the hospitals and it’s unseasonably early,” said Anne Geistkemper, a neonatal pediatric respiratory therapy manager at Rush.

Geistkemper stated that they have tripled their respiratory support therapies since September and advises parents to contact their pediatrician if their child is having difficulty breathing.

“You might see them tugging a bit more at their neck, maybe breathing a little harder with their belly, even breathing in so hard that you can kind of see some ribs,” Geistkemper explained.

Our area’s pediatric hospitals have more capacity. However, our ABC7 Data Team examined federal data and discovered an increase in pediatric bed use at some facilities in our area from October 14-20.

For example, UChicago Medicine Comer saw an 8% increase in daily average bed occupancy from a month ago. Rush increased by 11%, while Lurie remained unchanged from the previous month.

“Because they are breathing so hard and getting sick, it’s hard for them to eat or drink which can lead to dehydration which can also lead to an emergency room visit or hospital setting,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health and a pediatrician and father.

“Halloween, birthday parties… be careful, get your vaccine and stay home if you’re sick,” said Dr. Vohra.

Dr. Vohra advocates for preventive measures because pediatric ICU beds in the state are currently limited, with only 6% available.

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