NYC COVID Cases, RSV in Children Fuel Emergency Room Visits, Doctor Says – NBC New York

Can we just get a winter off?

Health officials and doctors in New York City are urging people to undertake extra virus precautions for a third straight year, warning the triple threat of COVID-19, flu season and the early emergence of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) could lead to higher rates of illness among certain groups. In recent days, the focus appears to be largely on children.

And with good reason.

Hospitals are already seeing spikes in child hospitalizations linked to respiratory ailments — and the trends are readily apparent in New York City, too, says Dr. Jay Varma, one of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top pandemic advisers.

Emergency department visits for kids under 5 years old with suspected acute respiratory infections — whether COVID, RSV or otherwise — are at their highest level in nearly a year, data shows.

“Last time it was this severe was middle of 1st Omicron surge (Christmas day ’21, in fact),” Varma tweeted.

Nearly 35,500 kids under age 5 so far visited New York City ERs this month for respiratory issues, the second most-affected age group behind people ages 18 to 64. The Bronx and Brooklyn account for the highest share of visits.

The numbers exclude kids presenting with flu-like illnesses and those who are later diagnosed with flu, which means the severe respiratory cases are likely higher. They do group pneumonia into COVID-like disease, however.

The national picture reflects similar concerns. CDC hospitalization data on that front also lumps respiratory issues into COVID-like illnesses, which excludes flu as New York City data does. According to the federal health agency, 74% of pediatric hospital beds were occupied as of Tuesday, with Rhode Island (99%) and Minnesota (95%) reporting the most usage. Connecticut (78%) and New York (75%) fall in the middle, with New Jersey noting lower bed occupancy (69%).

It can be hard to tell which virus is causing symptoms, especially among children that young, who may find it harder to communicate their specific issues. The symptoms of RSV are very similar to the flu and COVID — and a doctor at Long Island’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center says RSV’s atypical emergence is only compounding diagnostic questions.

Doctors across the country and the tri-state are worried about a potentially long winter, as hospitals see a spike in RSV cases, as well as COVID and the flu — with concerns mounting. NBC New York’s Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

“What we’ve been dealing with recently is the significant uptick in the number of children who are showing up to emergency departments with RSV,” said Dr. James Schneider, the chief of pediatric critical care at Cohen Children’s.

But Schneider says he’s seeing an influx of all three viruses among pediatric patients — and much earlier than usual.

The triple threat has pharmacy giants like Walgreens clamoring to get enough vaccine doses for whatever its customers need. The retailer says activity at its clinics is more than 10 times higher than it was last season — and it has doubled in just the past two weeks.

Kristen Demundo, a pharmacist in Commack, Long Island, says complaints range from everything to colds, strep throat and ear infections, along with flu, COVID and RSV-related symptoms. The demand has already created a shortage of some drugs, pharmacists say, including for things like antibiotics and amoxicillin.

So what should parents do? Whether flu, COVID or RSV, Varma says the same protocol that have always applied still hold now: Get vaccinated, wear masks, stay in ventilated areas, avoid others who are sick and wash your hands.

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