HOUSTON (KIAH) – Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is challenging pediatricians and hospitals in Texas. We spoke to an infectious disease specialist in the Texas Medical Center in Houston who sees firsthand the impact RSV is having on our area’s children’s hospitals.
“Several hospitals in the region are at capacity,” said Dr. Michael Chang, pediatric infectious disease specialist, UTHealth Houston/Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “Between different children’s hospitals and different hospitals, we are having to potentially move patients, or direct patients to other places and so you know, kind of everyone is dealing with that at the same time.”
Dr. Chang says regional hospitals are capable of handling surges of RSV. Before the pandemic, most children’s hospitals expect an increased volume of cases. However, those peaks happen in the winter, not during this time of year.
Dr. Chang shared that the Houston area in particular started to see a rise in RSV cases in June – and those numbers haven’t reached baseline levels as we head into another peak keeping hospitals filled.
“Our emergency rooms have been extremely busy. That’s true of urgent cares and pediatrician offices across the region. I know parents are waiting hours at times to be seen,” he said.
He explains that typically the RSV season lasts between eight to 12 weeks. After years of experience with the virus and analyzing data, Dr. Chang is hoping that we will start to see a downward trend or at least for numbers to plateau in the next two weeks.
“But again, hospitals, we are used to dealing with flu and RSV every winter, you know, before COVID. And so essentially, all pediatric kind of institutions always plan for these types of big winter respiratory virus surges,” he reassured.
What can I do to help keep my baby safe from RSV?
When people infected with RSV touch surfaces and objects, they can leave behind germs. Also, when they cough or sneeze, droplets containing germs can land on surfaces and objects and be spread to others.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Washing your hands will help protect you from spreading germs.
• Keep your hands off your face, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Germs spread this way.
• Avoid close contact with sick people, such as kissing, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who have cold-like symptoms.
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash afterward and wash your hands.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that people frequently touch, such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices.
• Stay home when you are sick, this includes work, school, and public places. This will help protect others from catching your illness.
If your baby was born with a heart or lung problem or born early (<32 weeks) talk to your child’s doctor to see if they may be eligible to receive a preventive treatment.