Surge in respiratory viruses, hospitalizations

RSV can be dangerous for some infants and young children, according to the CDC. Each year in the United States, an estimated 58,000-80,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infection.

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has issued an executive order in response to a surge of pediatric cases and hospitalizations of respiratory viruses, including Respiratory Syncytial Virus — commonly known as RSV — across Oregon.

The executive order will give hospitals additional flexibility to staff beds for children, allow them to draw on a pool of medical volunteer nurses and doctors, and take other steps to provide care to pediatric patients.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that spreads through virus-containing respiratory droplets produced from coughing and sneezing. For most children, RSV produces mild illness. However, young children are especially susceptible to RSV. Children under the age of two are at increased risk of severe disease.

Since the onset of Oregon’s RSV season in late October, the statewide pediatric hospitalization rate has more than tripled, and is likely to exceed its previously recorded weekly hospitalization rate imminently.

With only two pediatric specialty hospitals in the state with a pediatric ICU — OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital amd Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel – and a third hospital, Providence St. Vincent’s Hospital, which has a limited number of pediatric ICU beds — this executive action will help ensure hospitals have the tools they need to care for sick children, both from RSV as well as from other illnesses that may bring kids to the hospital.

"Oregon’s nurses, doctors, and hospital staff are deeply committed to caring for our children, and I’m grateful for all the work they are doing under difficult circumstances to help our kids,” Brown said. “As the country faces a surge in pediatric RSV cases, we want to make sure Oregon’s hospitals have access to the tools they need to provide care for sick kids. For parents, please know you can take steps to reduce the risk of RSV, including practicing the good health and hygiene habits we’ve learned over the past few years.”

Protect your child from RSV

Protect your child from RSV

“Like other hospitals in the region and across the country, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital is currently admitting a high number of sick patients. Illnesses have hit our communities hard—and this comes on top of extreme health care staffing challenges which were exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Dana A. Braner, M.D., physician-in-chief at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital. “We expect this spike in illness to continue in the coming months. The dedicated staff here at Doernbecher are incredible, and they will continue to provide quality, compassionate care for our patients.”

“It’s important for parents to remember that while this respiratory season is severe, there are key steps families can take to protect their young children,” said Dr. Jim McCord, interim chief medical officer for Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel. “Be cautious with your young children around large groups of people, particularly indoors, make sure your child is up to date on flu and childhood immunizations, and everyone needs to wash their hands frequently. Parents should contact their primary care provider with questions or concerns.”

State health experts at the Oregon Health Authority encourage all individuals at increased risk of severe disease, and their caregivers, to take steps to prevent RSV and other respiratory infections this flu season.

  • Stay up to date on flu and COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Keep your child home when your child is sick, if possible.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and frequently.
  • Keep common, high touch surface areas clean and regularly disinfected.

Resources

If you have questions about your child’s care, call your health care provider or visit an urgent care center. At this time, hospital emergency departments are strained. Only visit the hospital if your child shows signs of severe illness, such as if your child has trouble breathing.

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