Doctors warn parents about rising RSV, influenza cases

Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 5:23 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - We are still weeks away from the start of winter, but a common winter threat is making an early appearance and it’s not alone. Influenza is also hitting earlier than normal. COVID-19 is still hanging around, too.

Children’s Mercy doctors are warning parents that RSV and influenza are on the rise. Both viruses can hit children especially hard.

Usually, we say under 24 months we have the most significant impact in RSV,” said Dr. Jennifer Watts, Chief Emergency Medical Officer with Children’s Mercy Hospital. “This year, we are having quite a few kids that are older than that be impacted by RSV. I know some of adults are being impacted by it this year, too.”

Little Sawyer Rangel from Abilene, Kansas, is just 5 and a half months old. She got sick the week before Halloween. Her mother said it started with a bad cough and a runny nose. Then, she got worse.

When her fever wouldn’t break, her mother took her to the ER. A couple more days went by and Sawyer’s condition worsened. She went to the hospital in Abilene, but little Sawyer was so sick that she had to be flown to Children’s Mercy.

Sawyer spent days battling RSV. She had a high fever and struggled to breathe.

“When it does hit your kids and their body can’t fight it, the only way to describe it is a nightmare,” said Shawna Rangel, Sawyer’s mother. “I sat on her bed and just begged God not to take her. I did not think she was going to make it out.”

Finally, Sawyer stabilized and was able to get off oxygen. She went home and still has some congestion and a runny nose, but is improving.

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Dr. Watts advises parents to do just what Rangel did. Try treating at home with fever-reducing medications, hydration and rest. If your child struggles to breathe, seek medical attention.

“We are at capacity or near capacity almost every day here right now,” said Dr. Watts. “Knowing that influenza is still rising and RSV is still rising is certainly concerning as a children’s hospital, because we want to make sure we can take care of the sickest of the sick and everybody that needs care.”

According to the CDC, some 60,000-80,000 children younger than 5 are hospitalized with RSV each year in the U.S. and 100 to 300 children die from it.

Dr. Watts said it’s uncertain when cases will peak or how long the season will last. It is unusual for cases of RSV and influenza to hit this early.

“I won’t say never,” said Dr. Watts. “It does happen. What’s significant right now is they’re both increasing at the same time, rapid rate, and it’s putting a huge strain on a healthcare system that is already in a lot of strain coming out of COVID.”

Still, the same rules of infection control are your best protection.

Vaccines are the best way of prevention,” said Dr. Watts. “Handwashing is another good way of prevention. We know kids are not great about handwashing, but the more you can encourage them to wash their hands, the better off your family will be.”