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RSV contributing to limited pediatric capacity at St. Luke's

St. Lukes
Posted at 3:53 PM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 20:28:25-04

IDAHO — The pediatric floor at St. Luke's is considering a surge plan after already reaching capacity two weeks ago. This is because of a combination of illnesses going around including COVID-19 and RSV—a respiratory virus that's more common in the winter.

RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is a common viral infection that is seen especially in young kids that can cause some irritation in the lungs, according to health officials.

Dr. Elizabeth Kleweno, the Pediatric Hospitalist Medical Director for St. Luke’s, said the virus usually peaks between January and March, but this year it’s peaking right now.

She said the reason is probably the COVID-19 precautions people were taking during the winter months.

“Almost everybody gets it while they’re young, but we see the symptoms of it mostly in kids who are younger than two years old,” she said.

Kleweno said most kids can get over the virus at home, but about two percent of kids end up hospitalized.

There are a few warning signs parents can look out for to know whether their child needs medical attention.

“Any signs of respiratory distress. So if the babies are breathing really fast, they’re breathing really hard, they’re turning blue. Any of those concerning things they should contact a medical provider,” Kleweno said.

As far as preventing kids from catching the virus, handwashing is key. Unseasonal RSV combined with pediatric COVID-19 cases and other common summer illnesses is leading to some hospitals reaching capacity.

“Two weeks ago we were at capacity and what that meant is we had to hold patients in the ER for a longer time and we did have to transfer patients out of state at that point," Kleweno said.

For St. Luke's, reaching capacity also means postponing elective pediatric surgeries. Saint Alphonsus said their pediatric unit is not near capacity.