Stanford pediatrician handling spike in RSV cases

The respiratory virus RSV is keeping doctors busy and beds full at Bay Area children’s hospitals.

The U.S. is seeing a surge in RSV cases in children. Just recently, a video made headlines, showing police officers in Kansas City helping a one-month-old girl with RSV, after she stopped breathing. Officers performed chest compressions and back thrusts on the infant for more than 30 seconds to get her breathing again.

Dr. Alan Schroeder, a critical care physician at Stanford Children’s Health, said their beds are full, but they’ve been able to manage the surge so far by sending less severe patients that don’t need specialty care to regional sites around the Bay Area. It’s a similar story at other Bay Area children’s hospitals that have reported in recent weeks that beds are full.

"We are definitely feeling it too," Schroeder said. "It's as busy as we have been in many years."

Stanford Children’s Health is seeing a surge of all winter viruses, which is earlier and more severe than normal for this time of year.

"RSV, at our last check, made up about half of all viruses we're seeing right now and that's not too far off from what it normally is for a busy winter," Schroeder said.

But the hospital is not quite at the stage that other medical facilities are in other parts of the country, which have been forced to open up tents in their parking lot to deal with a surge in RSV cases.

"We're close to the tipping point so getting full cooperation from adult units to take in say some of our teenage patients may be necessary," he said.

RSV is the most common cause of Bronchiolitis in young children and infants. It causes inflammation and congestion in the small airways of the lung. Schroeder said if your child is breathing faster or harder than normal, or not eating very well, they may be dehydrated and should be seen by a doctor. But he advised against parents bringing in their children to see a doctor just to find out if they have RSV or not. Most children with colds can stay home and be monitored to alleviate the pressure on emergency rooms and urgent care centers.

"If it is a bad influenza winter and these other viruses continue at this pace, that will be a struggle, but if there's one thing we learned from the pandemic it's to be cautious about making overly confident proclamations about what we think is going to happen and I will abide by that now," he added.