Getting Answers: pediatricians overwhelmed with RSV cases

As we head into the colder months, local hospitals and pediatrician’s offices are seeing an intense surge in RSV cases
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 4:04 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2022 at 5:18 PM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - As we head into the colder months, local hospitals and pediatrician’s offices are seeing an intense surge in RSV cases and sadly, we’re learning this virus has now claimed lives in western Massachusetts.

Western Mass News has learned two children in our area have died from the common respiratory virus, RSV.

“There’s usually about 50,000 cases admitted to the hospital and about 5,000 would die. Already, Baystate Children’s Hospital has had two deaths, from very young infants, often with underlying medical conditions, dying from RSV, so it can be quite serious,” said Dr. Charlotte Boney, pediatrician-in-chief at Baystate Medical Center.

RSV is a contagious airborne virus, most dangerous to infants. Boney told Western Mass News that their pediatric ICU and emergency department have been full for weeks.

“In September at Baystate Children’s Hospital, we had the highest volume in our hospital ever recorded. Last month, in October, beat our volumes in September,” Boney noted.

Pediatrician Dr. John Kelley is experiencing the same surge in his office. He said the reason behind the busier than normal season is the pandemic. Many kids weren’t exposed to the virus last year, as most were wearing masks.

“There’s two groups of kids who really haven’t seen a lot of RSV because of the pandemic and masking and separation, so we’re twice as busy as normal,” Kelley noted.

RSV can be extremely dangerous and even deadly as we’ve learned, but typically only for children with underlying conditions or those only a few months old or less.

“You can’t really avoid this virus. One hundred percent of children get this before age 2,” Kelley said.

Kelley gave Western Mass News some signs to look out for. RSV typically resembles a common cold with a cough, fever, congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. More severe cases can include fast breathing, flaring of the nostrils and head bobbing with breathing, rhythmic grunting during breathing, belly breathing, and wheezing. If you believe your child’s symptoms are severe, call your pediatrician and they will help you decide if your child needs to go the emergency department.

“The vast majority of kids, 90 plus percent of kids, if they get to us in time and we can give them support measures, particularly oxygen, and other things until their body can clear the virus, will do quite well. They can get very sick very quickly, but they can also recover pretty quickly,” Kelley explained.

As for the Thanksgiving holiday, Kelley suggested anyone with even minor cold symptoms, wear a mask and not hug or kiss small children or even elderly friends or family members. He also said good handwashing is a great defense against viruses like RSV.