A Michigan pediatric hospital is reporting it is completely full due to a surge of cases linked to respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor — which is about 44 miles west of Detroit — said it has seen 259 children sick with RSV this season, a 46% spike from the same number seen this time last year.
Hospital officials said they are worried that this surge — coupled with an earlier flu season and a potential new COVID-19 wave — could put more stress on the health care system.
“We have been 100% full, I think we’re going on our sixth week, and RSV seems to have emerged earlier this year and in higher numbers this year,” Luanne Thomas Ewald, chief operating officer at Mott Children’s Hospital, told ABC News. “And the fact that we’re already full is concerning to us because we’re just starting to see flu in our emergency room.”
She continued, “Some reports have told us that we will also see an increase in COVID in kids during this flu season. So we haven’t really even seen the full impacts of the flu and COVID — and we’re already at capacity.”
The situation in Michigan is just the latest example of some hospitals across the country reporting they have reached capacity due to a high number of RSV cases.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, weekly RSV cases nationwide have risen from 5,872 the week ending Oct. 1 to 8,597 the week ending Nov. 5.
In Michigan, the 5-week average of positive RSV tests has increased from 95.7 the week ending Oct. 1 to 257 the week ending Oct. 29, the latest date for which CDC data is available.
Because of this, officials say wait times in the emergency department at Mott Children’s Hospital are much longer than usual.
To ease the burden on emergency room staff, Ewald said she and other hospital officials are asking parents to call their children’s primary care physician first to determine whether they need such treatment.
“Most pediatricians can diagnose RSV and can treat RSV, and most kids recover really, really well with rest and hydration,” Ewald said. “We’re really trying to tell the community throughout the state of Michigan, please partner with your pediatrician. Let’s use our urgent cares as well and only come to the emergency room when absolutely necessary.”
Although it’s rare, between 100 and 500 pediatric deaths occur from RSV every year, according to the CDC. Deaths among children from RSV have already been reported in states including Michigan and Virginia.
Ewald said the hospital is working to increase capacity by treating children in rooms traditionally used to draw blood and in stretchers lined up in the hallway, and they’re doubling up stretchers in private rooms. The hospital is also looking at transferring patients to local medical centers.
“We are working very closely with our community hospitals. Some of our community hospitals do have some pediatric beds available,” Ewald said. “So we’re really trying to take a statewide approach to make sure we’re taking care of these kids in our state.”
She also encouraged parents to make sure their children are up to date on their flu and COVID-19 vaccines, practice good hand hygiene and to consider masking indoors.