Pediatric units at Alaska hospitals are full of flu, RSV is doing the rounds

Pediatric units at Alaska hospitals are full of flu, RSV is doing the rounds

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Unusually high rates of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, continue to fill pediatric wards in Alaskan hospitals, marking a bad cold and flu season that has yet to peak.

“All the hospitals are full of sick, wheezy kids,” said Dr. Matt Hirschfeld, a pediatrician at Alaska Native Medical Center, who takes daily calls from hospitals statewide focused on the ability to pediatric care.

Hirschfeld, who has worked as a doctor in Alaska for 18 years, said while winter outbreaks of colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses occur every year in the state, “it’s much worse than in the past.” .

[Crowded ERs in some of Alaska’s hospitals lead to lengthy waits, delayed care]

The dual outbreaks of influenza and RSV in particular are causing what Hirschfeld described as “this horrible virus soup,” which means some hospitals, including Providence Alaska, have had to expand their pediatric units in different areas of the hospital.

“ANMC wants to do it but doesn’t have the nurses to do it, so they just put out a call to the public health department to see if they can get more nurses deployed here,” Hirschfeld said Friday. .


Based on flu data released weekly by the state, a spike in flu and other respiratory illnesses is still likely in at least a few weeks, Hirschfeld said.

“The curve continues to rise,” he said. “So it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

What is RSV?

A nationwide outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, overwhelmed Lower 48 pediatric units this fall and winter.

Like other respiratory viruses, it infects cells in the airways, including the lungs, and can cause breathing difficulties.

It is often more severe in infants and children under 5, the elderly, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people.

RSV is not a new disease. But pandemic precautions over the past few years have kept respiratory disease rates low – until now.

Now that these are gone, many children have little or no immunity and are getting sick at higher rates, and often with more severity.

When should I take my sick baby or child to be seen by a doctor?

Although Alaskan emergency rooms have been particularly full in recent weeks, Alaskans should still not wait long to seek treatment.

Providence Alaska offers a free 24-hour nursing advice line that helps people decide whether to go to the emergency room – 907-212-6183.

Hirschfeld said there are a few cases where parents should definitely seek care:

• If their sick baby or child has a fever and difficulty breathing

• If their sick baby or child goes 6 or 8 hours without being able to drink anything

• If their baby or child is breathing faster than 60 breaths per minute

• Or if their sick baby or child has trouble waking up

To prevent new diseases from spreading and to protect each other and hospital capacity, Alaskans should get their COVID-19 vaccine, get their flu shot, wash their hands, and avoid being around people. other people when they are sick, Hirschfeld added.

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Reporter Annie Berman is a full-time reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, covering health care and public health. His stance is backed by Report for America, which works to fill reporting gaps across America and place a new generation of journalists in community news organizations across the country. Report for America, funded by private and public donors, covers up to 50% of a journalist’s salary. It’s up to Anchorage Daily News to find the other half, through local community donors, benefactors, grants or other fundraising activities.

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