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RSV suspected in increased patient volume at Nationwide Children's Hospital

Nationwide Childrens Hospital

Doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital report patient volumes are up about 25 percent right now.

They're seeing more children sick with suspected cases of RSV, a respiratory virus spreading across the country and pushing some hospitals to capacity.

RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a common virus that circulates every year in wintertime.

But, for reasons unknown, it's showing up earlier this year, said Dr. Mike Patrick, an emergency medicine physician at NCH.

Dr. Patrick explains RSV is of most concern in young babies, where it can cause a condition known as bronchiolitis, not to be confused with bronchitis.

"That's inflammation of the little airways really deep in the lungs," Patrick said. "That can cause babies to have difficulty breathing, and wheezing. They also make lots of mucus in their nose. And so it really affects little babies compared to older kids."

Patrick said it's hard to say exactly how many cases of RSV they have right now because they don't usually test for it. It doesn't make a difference to how the illness is managed whether it's RSV or another respiratory virus.

"If you look at hospital volumes—so emergency department, urgent care, inpatient admissions—were about 25 percent higher than we would normally be at this time. And a lot of that is with respiratory issues that are likely linked to RSV," Patrick said.

Patrick said parents whose children are especially at risk for severe RSV should consider staying home as much as possible to avoid exposure.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.