RSV cases are causing pediatric hospitals to fill up as the virus that disproportionately affects infants is being spread across the U.S.
While RSV cases generally peak during the late fall and early winter months, Dr. Anthony Fauci is hopeful that things are reaching their peak.
“Hopefully we're gonna see that peak come down because if you look at other countries that have had those kinds of peaks with flu and RSV, it's peaked early but come down,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.”
Earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association said that RSV cases were rising to the level of a public health emergency. The organizations sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting the federal government declare an emergency to help provide hospitals with additional resources to combat the virus.
To date, Biden has not declared it an emergency. Fauci, who also serve as an adviser to Biden, hinted that cases are nearing an emergency.
“In some regions of the country, we're seeing that the hospital system for pediatrics are at the point of almost being overwhelmed,” Fauci said. “When you have very little wiggle room of intensive care beds, when you have like almost all the intensive care beds that are occupied, it's bad for the children who have RSV and need intensive care.
“But it also occupies all the beds and children who have a number of other diseases that require intensive care or ICU, they don't have the bed for it. So if you get to that situation, that's approaching an emergency. So when the nurses and the pediatric associations are saying this is really critical, it is.”
Fauci also addressed the potential for school closures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 104,000 parents stayed home with their children in October to care for them. That figure marked a record high.
“You have to have the local authorities evaluate on a situation by situation basis, the potential collateral deleterious effects, with the effects of what might happen if you have so many kids getting infected,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV causes 58,000 hospitalizations annually among children under age 5.
Adults and older children who are healthy tend to have mild cases if infected.
The CDC said those with the highest risk of contracting a severe case of RSV include:
- Premature infants
- Very young infants, especially those 6 months and younger
- Children younger than 2 years old with chronic lung disease or congenital (present from birth) heart disease
- Children with weakened immune systems
- Children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus secretions
Early symptoms tend to include a runny nose, a decrease in appetite, and cough. Those symptoms can worsen, causing inflammation of the small airways in the lung.