An outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory infections are overwhelming Bay Area children's hospitals — forcing ICU units to send pediatric patients to other floors because they've reached capacity.
Orange County declared a health emergency just after Halloween around its RSV outbreak in the county's pediatric population. Though no such edict has been enacted in the Bay Area, San Francisco and Oakland recently recorded their highest volume days for intake of patients suffering from RSV infections than any other time over the past five years.
For healthcare staff working in UCSF's pediatric units, the current respiratory outbreaks among children are basically their "March 2020," per Dr. Jackie Grupp-Phelan, the division chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals, who is overseeing both the Oakland and San Francisco facilities.
"Our ICUs are at capacity," Grupp-Phelan told ABC7. "We have boarding children in the emergency department that haven’t even been sent up to the floor because all the hospital beds have been taken."
According to Grupp-Phelan, both Bay Area hospitals intact patients well past the borders of their respective cities; they, too, often take many transfers from other hospitals — which has added to the strain each is facing from the increase of patients admitted with respiratory illnesses.
"We have not been able to take children who we normally take from outside into our intensive care units and into our acute care side of the hospital. We are very severely affected right now," Grupp-Phelan added.
Currently, there are no vaccines that protect against RSV infections available to the public; there are no RSV-specific medications approved by the FDA, either. In lieu of such inoculations and treatments, Grupp-Phelan and other medical professionals are advising parents keep an eye out for signs of acute, symptomatic infections.
Though the symptoms mirror those of COVID and the flu, the key difference between RSV from the latter two diseases is that it usually begins without a fever. The symptoms are more of that like a bad cold... that gets worse as time goes on.
The best means of helping children and the elderly — the two cohorts most vulnerable to severe RSV infections that require hospitalization — is to treat the symptoms as they arise, stay home if you think you or your kids are sick, and consult with a primary care doctor.
"What parents can look for is increased work of breathing, inability to take liquids, not being able to urinate at least two or three times a day, looking more listless or less active," she tells the news outlet. "These are things that we would really want to check in with our primary care doctor."
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