The common respiratory virus that caused a recent surge in parents taking their children to local emergency rooms hasn’t subsided, and things could get worse soon.
Doctors believe Chicago, like the rest of the country, is at risk of a “tri-epidemic” of COVID-19, influenza, and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.
That’s on top of a 10-hour wait for an evaluation in the ER at Lurie Children’s Hospital, according to Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist there. However, according to hospital officials, the wait time varies from day to day.
Tan said that the longest wait times aren’t usually seen until midwinter.
“It’s only going to get worse as these respiratory viral illnesses spread,” Tan predicted.
Tan stated that no fatal respiratory virus cases have occurred this season.
Allison Bartlett, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Comer Children’s Hospital, called the surge in respiratory cases the “COVID moment” in the pediatric world.
“The COVID crisis wasn’t as significant in terms of volume for pediatrics because kids just didn’t get as sick as our adults,” Bartlett explained. “We’re in the same almost-crisis mode, but the community isn’t clapping for us every night at 7 p.m., and they’re not doing everything they can to help prevent infection spread.” We’re pretty much on our own.”
The increase in ER visits, primarily caused by RSV, began in late September. According to Tan, influenza is not yet circulating at high levels in the Midwest.
“If it’s anything like what Australia experienced, it’ll be a severe flu season,” Tan predicted.
A number of factors are at work, including a lack of immunity among children who haven’t been exposed to some of the viruses circulating due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Furthermore, not enough people have received their COVID-19 and flu vaccines. There is no vaccine for RSV, which has symptoms similar to a common cold, such as a runny nose, decreased activity, and appetite. RSV can cause a wheezing cough and breathing difficulties.
“All of this has resulted in an increase in the amount of disease seen,” Tan explained. “The problem is, the more these viruses are allowed to be transmitted and circulate, the more risk there is for these viruses to mutate — and that’s what we’re now seeing with COVID.”
Tan is urging parents to ensure that their children are up to date on COVID-19 boosters and the flu vaccine for this season.
Tan issues a familiar warning to parents suffering from vaccine fatigue: “Viruses don’t pick and choose.” They infect everyone present.”
A pediatrician is usually the best source for determining whether your child needs to go to the ER. According to doctors at Lurie, the following are some of the symptoms that require immediate attention:
—Newborns [less than two months old] with a fever of 100.4° F or higher
—Extreme chest pain, difficulty breathing, passing out or fainting, and coughing up blood
—Extreme asthma attacks
—Severe dehydration (child is drowsy, has dry lips or mouth, hasn’t urinated in four to six hours, is vomiting, and has diarrhea)