Children’s hospitals in Houston are protesting RSV’s summer riots

During COVID-19 Hospitalization remains low, Houston’s largest pediatric facilities are preparing for a wave of summer infections, and some hospitals are extending ER waiting times.

Based on the results of antigen and PCR tests monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, has doubled in Texas in the past month. The Texas Children’s Hospital says about 50 children have been hospitalized with the virus, four times the number in mid-April, and doctors at Germany’s Children’s Memorial have seen a similarly exponential increase.

There are no seasonal respiratory vaccines or home-based tests for children under 3 years of age. It can be caused by a runny nose or cough, but can be more severe in infants when the risk of developing the disease is high. bronchiolitis, inflammation of the small airways of the lungs and pneumonia.

As usual, RSV waves hit in the fall and winter, but the arrival of COVID changed the picture. Quarantine and mitigation measures kept all respiratory illnesses low in 2020, and by the summer of 2021, the massive increase in RSV infections peaked in July. According to experts, the ease of wearing masks and social exclusion seem to have played a role in the increase in RSV outside the season.

“For me, the increase in RSV is now a bigger problem than it was in pediatrics (COVID),” he said. Michael Chang, an expert on pediatric infectious diseases at UTHealth Houston, is affiliated with Children’s Memorial German Hospital.

Chang said wearing a mask and social isolation would help stop the spread of the two viruses. COVID cases have continued to grow in most parts of the country. The 14-day average in Harris County is 18 percent positive, more than three times the number in early May. The level of true infection can be much higher with the prevalence of home testing.

But recent COVID strains appear to have caused less severe disease. Some hospitalized children are positive about COVID, doctors say, but the virus is not the most common cause.

RSV is often the main disease for children seeking emergency care because it can lead to wheezing and other symptoms of difficulty breathing, the doctor said. James Versalovich, Chief Pathologist, Texas Children’s Hospital. According to him, almost 30 percent of children hospitalized with RSV are in pediatric intensive care.

Versalovich expects RSV infections to increase in the coming weeks. If last summer’s RSV data predicted this year’s trend, the wave is still in its infancy.

According to the CDC, in July 2021, Texas reached the peak of RSV infection in July. Various tests — antigen and PCR — reached their peak on different days, with 46 percent of the state’s antigen tests positive on July 3 and 29 percent of PCR tests positive on July 24. The latest data for this year. In the week of June 4, it showed a positive rate of 12 percent for antigen tests and 13 percent for PCR tests.

“We’re worried for the rest of June,” Versalovic said.

According to Chang, waiting times at the German Children’s Memorial are changing at an unusually high rate for this time of year. Hospitals still have enough beds, but a significant increase in RSV admissions could be a big strain, he said.

Dr. Brent Kazini, medical director of the Texas Pediatric Emergency Department, said children with respiratory problems – sucking around the abdomen and clavicle, shaking their heads or buzzing – should be taken to the ER immediately. But common symptoms of RSV, such as congestion, can be solved at home, he said.

According to him, parents should first check for fever. In general, treatment of fever reduces the symptoms. While a nasal pump at home is also effective in relieving RSV symptoms, first aid pediatricians are a good source for parents struggling with a persistent infection, he said.

There are no clear answers as to why the RSV season took place, Chang said, but it is an open question as to whether the virus will ever return to normal.

“I think everything I know about RSV can be completely the opposite right now,” Chang said.

julian.gill@chron.com

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