BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — COVID numbers keep rising in Western New York, but pediatricians are now warning of another virus that’s filling hospital beds.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, is similar to a common cold in adults, but can harm young children.
“It mostly causes problems in young children, especially babies, with severe breathing problems,” explained Oishei Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Turkovich. “Older children or adults often will just get cold-like symptoms.”
Although RSV is common during winter, this summer many areas – including Western New York – are seeing an uptick in cases. Dr. Turkovich said from January to June this year, Oishei had, on average, three patients per month admitted with RSV. In July, that number spiked to 46 patients, and so far, in August, 51 kids have been treated for RSV.
Between the spike in RSV and COVID-19 cases, Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester has exceeded full capacity for more than a week.
“Kids don’t get admitted to the hospital unless they’re really symptomatic, so kids are getting sick from this,” said Golisano Pediatric Chair Dr. Patrick Brophy. “You have to decide at some point in time when sources stretch thin who gets care. I certainly don’t want to be in that position.”
Dr. Turkovich said right now, there are many open beds at Oishei, but the hospital is preparing as if it’s the calm before the storm.
“This could be the beginning of an unusual early RSV season,” he said. “This is often the pattern that we see in November, so if it continues along that trajectory, we may see a peak in RSV over the next four to eight weeks.”
Dr. Turkovich said there were no RSV cases at Oishei last summer, likely because people were social distancing, frequently washing their hands and wearing masks. He said doing all of these things now could help bring RSV cases back down again.