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Children’s Health Leaders Call for Emergency Response as Respiratory Viruses Continue to Spread

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(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

(CNN) — Seasonal flu activity is “elevated across the country,” with “high” or “very high” respiratory viral activity in more than half of U.S. states, according to an update released Friday by US Centers for disease control and prevention.

And health care systems nationwide continue to feel the strain of a respiratory virus season that hit earlier and harder than usual.

There have been about eight flu hospitalizations per 100,000 people this season, rates typically seen in December or January. The cumulative hospitalization rate hasn’t been this high at this point in the season in more than a decade, according to the CDC.

Even for this point in the season the hospitalization rate for RSV is 10 times higher than usual. Babies are especially at risk: More than eight in 1,000 babies under 6 months and four in 1,000 babies between 6 months and 1 year have been hospitalized with RSV this season, data from the CDC show.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association requested a formal declaration of emergency by the federal government to support hospitals and communities amid “an alarming surge in pediatric respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza, along with the ongoing children’s mental health emergency.”

“These unprecedented levels of RSV occurring with rising influenza rates, high numbers of children in mental health crises, and acute workforce shortages are combining to bring pediatric care capacity to hospital level and community to the breaking point. Because of these challenges, children’s hospitals and pediatricians are being asked to support more care and higher levels of care than ever before,” the leaders of the organizations wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden and the secretary of health and human services. of the United States Xavier Becerra “We need emergency financial support and flexibility along the same lines as what has been provided to respond to the waves of COVID”.

Children’s hospitals have been busier than usual in recent months, HHS data shows. More than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds are in use nationwide, up from an average of about two-thirds over the past two years.

“Hospital systems, medical care facilities, STAT clinics, pediatrician’s offices, adult physician’s offices are all feeling the stress of these respiratory viruses right now,” Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said Friday at a briefing given by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

In Washington state, emergency rooms are in “crisis mode” and are “bordering on, if not already disaster mode,” Dr. Tony Woodward, medical director of emergency medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said this week.

“Our emergency room is at 100% capacity nearly 24 hours a day and is up to 300% capacity in the evening, which means that for patients who come in for emergencies, [they] they are not treated immediately,” Woodward said.

Dr. Rustin Morse, medical director of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, said Tuesday it had to be “judicial” about which patients to accept as transfers.

“We all see and are asked to accept patients far away, and we’ve had requests in Virginia and Missouri as well,” Morse said. “And we’ve had to say no to those other hospitals in distant states so we can optimize our ability to care for patients within the state of Ohio.”

While RSV activity shows signs of slowing in the South, it is still ramping up nationwide, with nearly one in five PCR tests testing positive. And flu activity continues to be highest in the South. Data from Walgreens tracking prescriptions for antivirals like Tamiflu suggests hot spots centered in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, spreading from Houston and the Gulf Coast area to Knoxville.

“It’s one after another,” Dr. Tina Tan, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and vice president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said at Friday’s briefing. “RSV has already stretched hospital systems to capacity or beyond capacity. Now you’ve got the flu that’s starting to ramp up in other areas where they’re trying to deal with the rise in RSV, and you’ve got the Covid that’s starting to ramp up as well. So it’s really putting a strain on hospital systems across the United States.

The United States is in a different place this holiday season than in previous pandemic years, Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, told CNN on Thursday.

“I hope we won’t see anything like the spike we saw in January, but we could very well still see many more infections in the weeks and months ahead,” Jha said. “The good news, though, is that we can get together safely, we can do all of these things, if people go ahead and get that up-to-date bivalent vaccine that’s available, get treatment if you get the infection. We’re just in a very different place.

Data from the CDC shows that less than 5 percent of the U.S. population lives in a county that is considered to have a “high” community rate of Covid-19, a measure that captures community transmission and hospital capacity. But for the first time in weeks, forecasts from the CDC suggest trends in new hospitalizations for COVID-19 will pick up in the coming weeks.

While the COVID-19 emergency declaration remains in effect, the federal government has not issued a formal emergency declaration regarding child health care. HHS and the CDC are in regular contact with leaders and health care providers, actively monitoring situational needs and standing by to provide assistance on a case-by-case basis, an HHS spokesperson told CNN.

Experts encourage taking preventative steps to stay healthy during this unusual respiratory virus season.

“We have learned a few things from COVID. Masks work. Dust them off, bring them back out,” Schaffner said.

They also urge everyone who is eligible to get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines, along with other routine immunizations.

Routine vaccination rates have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic and have not improved much. The situation is “pretty serious in the pediatric population, because vaccination rates in some age groups are still 50 percent lower than pre-pandemic rates,” Tan said. So there are a lot of unprotected children out there who are at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Children also lag behind in COVID-19 vaccination rates. Fewer than 5 percent of children younger than 5 completed their initial series, along with less than a third of children ages 5 to 11, according to data from the CDC.


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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