Children's hospitals across the country are nearing capacity as Americans hit the start of cold and flu season, according to a new report.
Nationally, pediatricians have reported a surge in cases of respiratory illnesses such as RSV and the flu, which are increasing so rapidly it's overwhelming hospitals in at least three dozen states.
RSV usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms and, in severe cases, can lead to pneumonia.
According to The Washington Post, the Children's National Hospital in Washington D.C., Inova Fairfax in Northern Virginia, and, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, are out of the more than 650 beds at all three facilities.
"We are seeing very high numbers of very sick children here at Children's National in the emergency department and in the inpatient wards," Dr. Sarah Combs said, an emergency medicine physician and director of outreach at the Children's National Hospital.
Earlier this week, 18 children were waiting for a pediatric intensive care unit, or PICU, bed at Children's National, which has 323 inpatient beds and primarily serves the greater Washington area, The Washington Post reports.
"It's not just a problem of how busy we are at Hopkins, which we are, but it flows out to the remote community emergency rooms that have to move kids," said Eric Biondi, chief of pediatric hospital medicine at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
The increase in the number of patients has been so strong that Connecticut Children's Hospital has had to treat some patients in its halls and they're working with FEMA and the National Guard to look for a location for a mobile field hospital.
Experts believe the child respiratory illness surge is because the COVID-19 shutdown left many children with a weakened immune system and COVID-19 protocols such as masking and social distancing have been lifted.
Others argue the issue is exacerbated by a nationwide shortage of healthcare workers.
"The fact that you have to look at the parent and say your kid needs ICU-level care but we have no bed for them: That's a very hard conversation to have," said Sofia Teferi, a pediatrician at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center. "I'm just floored by the whole thing — in the nation's capital."
Healthcare professionals are advising parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19.
"In order to give both a sprout of hope and also some micro sense of control of, 'Well, what can I do other than panic?' " Combs advised. "Go back to basics, do what you've been doing over the past couple of years of [the] pandemic: Get your immunizations...and just do your best."
As CBN News reported, doctors recommend a flu shot for most people, ideally before Halloween, as the best way to avoid the flu or suffering severe complications. The flu vaccine takes full effect after a couple of weeks and lasts about six months.
"You want to be protected even at the tail end of the flu season, which might be March or April of 2023," Dr. Cirigliano told CBN News.
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