Thursday, September 16, 2021

Viruses are bringing kids to ICU this summer, but it’s not all Covid

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Full coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic The rise worries already overwhelmed doctors as the school year approaches. Not only do they expect more spread of the winter viruses; they also anticipate a rise in Covid cases among younger students. Virtually all elementary school-age children — that is, those younger than 12 — are unvaccinated, and some school districts have said they will not require masks in classrooms, regardless of vaccination status.

“We are all bracing for what’s coming this respiratory season when kids go back to school,” said Dr. Kristin Moffitt, an infectious diseases physician at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, saw a similar rise in unseasonal viruses.

“Normally, you just don’t see RSV in the summertime at all,” said Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The rise in such infections in June and July “exceeded our worst winters in terms of RSV hospitalization,” he said. “Our children’s hospitals are busy, predominantly because of the winter viruses that have come back with a vengeance,” he said.

RSV can be particularly dangerous in young children and babies, as it can lead to pneumonia and bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung. The viruses circulating now spread mostly through respiratory droplets spewed when a person coughs or sneezes. Some, such as the virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease, go from person to person via unwashed hands.

The team had to activate additional teams of doctors to keep afloat. “It was all hands on deck,” he said. In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted doctors about the spread of RSV, especially in Southern states. Kimberlin said his pediatric intensive care unit almost ran out of beds because of the influx of RSV cases.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic Dr. Sean O’Leary, an infectious diseases physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said he is seeing a “big uptick” in RSV cases. While RSV cases are beginning to ease in the South, there is early indication that the virus is moving north.

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