A 6-year-old Macomb County boy has died of respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV, the Oakland County Chief Medical Examiner said Wednesday, amid a surge of infections among children of Michigan that have pediatric hospitals across the state at or near capacity.
The young boy was hospitalized at Corewell Health Beaumont Troy Hospital and died at 3:41 a.m. Wednesday, the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office told the Free Press.
“The child was diagnosed in hospital and survived in hospital for several hours, I believe, with severe respiratory distress,” said medical examiner Dr Ljubisa Dragovic. “He had an RSV infection because it was documented and tested positive at the hospital.”
The boy is among hundreds of children in Michigan who have needed hospital care amid a surge of cases of RSV, which causes the most serious illness in infants and young children, people with weak immune systems. is weakened and the elderly.
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Who is at risk for RSV?
It’s a very common respiratory virus that in most people causes mild cold-like symptoms “typical of other respiratory illnesses – runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fevers, all those things,” Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, state medical director. told Free Press in a previous interview. “Most people with RSV infections heal on their own at home.”
A subset of the population — especially babies, toddlers, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems — may have a harder time fighting off the virus and can get very sick. When they catch the virus, it can cause wheezing and respiratory distress.
RSV is not a disease that must be reported to public health agencies, so the statewide case and death count is unknown. However, Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, told the Free Press, “Over the past three weeks, there has been a sustained increase in pediatric ER visits, primarily due to respiratory diseases.
“We urge all families in Michigan to take steps to prevent the spread of respiratory illness. This includes staying home if you feel unwell and avoiding contact with people at risk of severe RSV disease. washing your hands often getting your flu and COVID-19 vaccines having a supply of COVID-19 tests and masks at home knowing if you are eligible for treatment options if you are not you don’t feel well.”
The Oakland County Health Division released a statement on Wednesday urging people with cold symptoms to avoid interaction with young children to limit the spread of RSV.
Michigan hospitals filled with sick children
The swell of sick children with RSV is straining hospital emergency departments and pediatric intensive care units across the state.
At Corewell Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, all beds in the intensive care unit were full on Wednesday. The hospital had to add about five more intensive care beds to a dedicated overflow unit, said Dr. Hossain Marandi, the hospital’s president, to continue caring for the sickest children.
“We also assess every admission to make sure that when a critically ill child needs care, we can say yes,” Marandi said.
CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is “extremely full,” spokeswoman Beata Mostafavi said. Decisions are made “on a case-by-case basis due to capacity issues”.
Bagdasarian said RSV and other respiratory virus infections among children in the state “have escalated over the past week,” even above already high thresholds.
“What we’re seeing right now with the trends is that not only are RSV surveillance numbers in terms of positive tests going up, but the number of patients presenting to emergency care, in the wards urgency with RSV, is also increasing. And that’s mostly in the under-4 age group,” she said on Wednesday.
“We’re really hearing from all of our pediatric hospitals that they’re struggling right now. They’re struggling with intensive care beds. They’re struggling in terms of pediatric staffing. A lot of them aren’t accepting transfers, which is a problem. … Many of them have emergency service borders or tenants (who are) … children who cannot be moved to a more permanent bed because there is simply has so many cases.
Calls are pouring in from other hospitals in Michigan and out of state asking if the University of Michigan Health at Sparrow Children’s Center in Lansing has room to accept more sick children as transfers, said spokesperson Corey Alexander.
“We will continue to monitor our capacity limits and take appropriate action,” he said.
And at the eight southeast Michigan hospitals that are part of Corewell Health East, Beaumont Health’s new name, the availability of hospital beds for children fluctuates between being “at” or “reaching capacity,” a said Dr. Mathew Denenberg, chief of the pediatrics system.
Choosing the right level of care for symptoms
John Karasinski, spokesman for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, said staffing shortages that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic have continued. This means that even if there are open beds in a hospital, there may not be enough nurses and other staff to care for the patients there.
“That’s a big factor in what’s going on right now. … There aren’t enough staff to account for all the physical beds that hospitals might have,” he said.
Karasinski urged people to help ease the burden on hospitals by choosing the right level of health care based on the severity of symptoms.
“Given the influx of patients presenting to hospital emergency rooms with RSV, anyone with worsening symptoms such as difficulty breathing, dehydration, should definitely seek treatment immediately” in an emergency department of a hospital, he said.
“People with mild symptoms, we want to encourage them to contact local emergency care, a pediatrician’s office, a family practice. Use these alternative care sites to try to ease some of the pressure that weighs on hospitals right now.”
What are the signs that my child needs to go to the emergency room with RSV?
Babies can’t tell their parents they’re having trouble breathing. Doctors told the Free Press that caregivers should watch for the following symptoms:
- rapid breathing
- Hissing or growling noise
- Nostrils dilate and/or muscles in the neck, chest, or abdomen feel tight when trying to breathe
- Not eating well
- Excessive irritability or excessive lethargy
- Bluish discoloration of the skin, lips or nails
- Dehydration, which manifests in infants with fewer wet diapers
- Apnea episodes
“When the respiratory rate is above 60, they are often so busy trying to breathe to oxygenate their bodies that they often don’t eat well,” said Dr. Rudolph Valentini, a pediatric nephrologist at Children’s Hospital. Hospital of Michigan and Group Physician Lead for Detroit Medical Center.
“They are vulnerable to dehydration. So if they’re not eating well, if they’re fussy, if they have a fever, if you see abdominal breathing or growling, you have to go to the hospital,” he said. .
“Not every case of a cough or cold with a bit of wheezing warrants a hospital visit. If your baby is breastfeeding comfortably but seems a little uncomfortable, you can pick up the phone and contact your pediatrician for advice.
“But definitely when they have these symptoms of difficulty breathing where they growl, or you see abdominal breathing or they have trouble feeding, you need to get (medical) attention.”
Other ways to help the healthcare system through the RSV crisis
Bagdasarian said it’s not just RSV that’s circulating now, making adults and children sick. Flu cases are starting to appear, along with coronaviruses, rhinoviruses, adenoviruses and others.
“What we’re telling people is to really think of this as viral respiratory season,” she said. “We are really asking people to just use common sense strategies, to use the tools we have to keep health systems functioning and … available to those in need of urgent medical care.
“We want to make sure that if someone has a heart attack or a stroke or someone is involved in a traffic accident, they have access to the excellent health care that they would normally have access to.”
That means being up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, she said, and getting a flu shot.
“If you’re not feeling well, stay home and away from others…to stop the spread to others,” she said. “We have to remember that what might be a mild infection for someone in their 20s and 30s could be a life-threatening infection for a newborn or an elderly or immunocompromised person.”
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