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OC hospitals gear up for young patients as pediatric beds are in demand – Orange County Register

Cases of respiratory illnesses in children are still on the rise and may not peak until at least December, so Orange County hospitals are considering plans to handle the surge as pediatric beds remain largely full.

Orange County Health Officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong declared a local emergency Nov. 1 in response to the situation, and on Friday the county’s director of emergency medical services warned “during In the past few days, our main pediatric hospital, Children’s Hospital of Orange County reached a record 489 visits (emergency department).”

Not all ER visitors end up being admitted, but at the behest of county health officials, adult hospitals are seeking state waivers and scrambling to find the appropriate staff so they can admit children if necessary.

“This flu season is very unique in that it has started much earlier than usual and is affecting many more children,” said Desiree Thomas, executive director of emergency services, critical care and of Behavioral Health at Providence St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Pediatric cases of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, have also increased earlier than usual and in some children have been more severe than in recent years.

A Newport Beach Fire ambulance walks toward the entrance of Children’s Health of Orange County on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. A Health Emergency Declaration and Local Emergency Proclamation were issued Tuesday, Nov. 1, by Health Worker of Orange County to respond to the rapid spread of RSV, the most dangerous respiratory virus in young children. Orange County Health Care Agency officials are urging the public to take preventative action to stop the spread of the virus from overwhelming hospitals in the coming months. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

St. Joseph is working on plans to increase capacity and is assessing which of its medical staff members have pediatric experience, Thomas said. Although any emergency department can treat children, those who need to be admitted would normally be transferred to a children’s hospital – and with the demand for designated children’s beds, “this is obviously becoming less and less likely and more difficult to move them,” Thomas said.

With COVID-19 cases also trending upwards, Thomas doesn’t expect to see respiratory disease peak until December. UC Irvine epidemiologist Andrew Noymer said he thinks the wave of flu and RSV cases may start to decline by January.

There’s no consensus among epidemiologists on what causes more widespread and severe RSV infections, Noymer said, but there are two main theories.

Noymer supports the idea that the damage COVID-19 can cause to the immune system has made children more susceptible to RSV. After being schooled remotely for months and returning to in-person instruction this school year, most children have had COVID-19 at least once – and there have certainly been cases of RSV this year. last, but “it just wasn’t causing as much serious illness,” he said.

“We don’t normally see that RSV light years are followed by severe years,” Noymer said. “I think the missing piece of the puzzle is post-COVID immune dysregulation.”

The other main theory is that RSV “is on a sort of equilibrium on a knife’s edge” in typical years – people are constantly exposed to the virus when they go to work, school and elsewhere, they maintain so their immunity — but school and business closures, mask requirements and other pandemic precautions have “altered the Earth’s axis” with respect to the virus, Noymer said.

But, he noted that places with fairly mild pandemic restrictions like Florida are also experiencing severe waves of RSV.

Thomas’ advice to parents of younger children is to take preventative measures such as keeping their children away from large crowds and having “an early sense of worry” – call their pediatrician if their child seems to have a respiratory illness and seek medical attention or urgent care early on, rather than waiting and possibly ending up in the emergency room.

California Daily Newspapers

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