Children's hospitals across Georgia seeing influx of RSV patients

Children’s hospitals are seeing a surge in RSV patients earlier in the season than usual.

Pediatric hospitals across Georgia and the South are working together to manage an influx of RSV patients. The weeks-long nationwide surge in the respiratory virus known as RSV has left Georgia children’s hospital beds full. 

RSV can affect people of all ages, and symptoms typically include fever, cough that may progress to wheezing or difficulty breathing and runny nose. The infection usually clears up in a week or two.

But according to the CDC, babies are especially vulnerable to severe infection, including pneumonia and bronchiolitis. 

Other child populations at increased risk for severe illness from RSV include premature babies, children under 2 with chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease, with weakened immune systems, or with certain neuromuscular disorders.

The CDC reports that as many as two out of every 100 children under six months with RSV may need to be hospitalized. 

Dr. Steven Goudy, a pediatric Ear, nose, and throat specialist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University, said RSV can also be dangerous for infants because they can’t use their mouths to breathe.  

“So if they can’t breathe through their nose because they really have a lot of mucus, they can’t breathe that well, they can’t eat, they get dehydrated, they get admitted to the hospital,” he said. “And some of these kids end up having to be on the breathing machine.”

Georgia currently has approximately 700 inpatient children’s hospital beds. 

And children’s hospitals are operating over capacity as RSV cases spike and more families seek hospital care across Georgia and the South.

So, Goudy said, facility officials in the region are coordinating and sharing resources to ensure that RSV patients who need to be admitted can get a bed.  

“It really is a critical state of shuffling things around and making sure that we pair capacity with need, both within the state and within the region. Everybody is really working together quite well,” Goudy said. “If we’re sitting here in Atlanta and we have a critically ill patient, and they can’t take them, we call Birmingham; we call Chattanooga, we call Nashville. So all of the groups of the children’s hospitals are working together collectively.”

Still, many elective surgeries are being delayed at Georgia children’s hospitals to make space for RSV patients, along with flu and COVID-19 patients. 

CDC RSV prevention precautions include staying home when you’re sick, frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and hand washing.

Read more at CDC.