Officials Still Worried About High Volume of RSV Case

"The burden of disease for RSV is significant."

Brendan Keany
January 17, 2020 - 2:43 pm

Oishei Children's Hospital. May 21, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO (WBEN) - Local health officials are still concerned about the high volume of RSV cases they're seeing in children and infants, as Friday morning's press conference marked the second such news brief within the last two months.

"By the time a child turns 2, almost every child has been exposed and been infected with RSV," said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. "Most of the time, it can cause just some mild respiratory illnesses like a bad cold, so the child may have a fever, nasal congestion, some cough and fussiness."

However, this year's strain of RSV, which began far earlier than when the typical season begins, is much more aggressive and leading to more serious health risks.

"We've seen a significant number of kids admitted to the hospital, and the most common reasons for being admitted to the hospital are respiratory distress, meaning that they've had difficulty breathing and need varying levels of oxygen therapy," said Dr. Stephen Turkovich, chief medical officer of Oishei Children's Hospital.

Turkovich also noted that they're seeing a lot of cases of dehydration in infants because they're struggling to eat due to breathing difficulties.

Burstein explained that, because RSV is so common without ever materializing into something urgent, there are clear signs when parents need to seek immediate medical attention.

"When they don't look comfortable, (breathing)," she began. "They might have nasal flaring - so their nostrils are flaring up because they're trying to suck in some oxygen - they're pulling at their chest to breathe so the skin in their ribs is pulling in; you might see their head bopping, really making a big effort to breathe - they're in trouble when you hear them systematically grunting."

There have been enough children admitted to the hospital that it's placing a hefty burden on hospital space and staff, as this isn't simply a Buffalo problem.

"Multiple children's hospitals across the nation have been faced with significant, really unprecedented and historic, surges of patients with respiratory disease," said Turkovich. "We have been working with our staff very closely to make sure that they're staying healthy and they're not getting burned out because of the significant volume. We're working through things like making sure we have enough staff through overtime, asking for travelers to come in from across the country, but again, the pool of travelers across the country is being stretched too because multiple hospitals are seeing this."

Listen to the full press conference below:

RSV and flu cases prompt Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst to implement an enhanced visitation policy. The policy for maternity and newborn patients:

  • Please do not visit if you are ill.
  • Parents are not considered visitors - they are an important part of the care team!
  • No visitors under 5 years of age
  • We strongly suggest no visitors under 14 years of age, if possible.
  • WASH YOUR HANDS AND USE ALCOHOL-BASED HAND SANITIZER FREQUENTLY ESPECIALLY BEFORE AND AFTER ENTERING A PATIENT’S ROOM
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