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Doctor: RSV putting 'burden' on healthcare system as cases spike

Posted at 8:42 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-16 11:26:15-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — One doctor says he is seeing RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, more this year than he has in the past three decades.

RSV can often appear like a common cold. In young children and infants though, it can have serious side effects. The virus can lead to other conditions such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia. According to the Centers for Diseast Control, one to two out of every 100 children younger than 6 months of age with RSV may need to be hospitalized. In some of the worst cases, children may need oxygen or a breathing tube.

"This year has been one of our busiest years that I can remember for RSV," said Dr. McGee, a pediatric hospitalist with Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids who has been treating children with RSV for more than 30 years. "I've been doing this for 35 years now, and I've never seen a year that has been that busy."

In years past, Dr. McGee has seen most RSV cases after Christmas. This year, an unusual number of children began coming in before Thanksgiving. Already, Spectrum is seeing double the number of patients that it did last year.

"It's concerning that we are seeing this many, because it's kind of putting a burden on the whole heathcare system," said Dr. McGee. "We are getting a lot of children that are very ill. Our ICU has hit record numbers last month and this month for respiratory infections."

RSV is highly contagious, but parents can take precautions to prevent exposure, including washing your hands, keeping your children away from anyone who is sick, and making sure people don not kiss your babies.