RSV and flu cases in Clark County leading to spike in hospitalizations

Cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are high throughout the Miami Valley as the region also continues to see flu and COVID-19 cases, and Clark County health care providers are seeing an influx of patients seeking care.

“The RSV outbreak by itself would be cause for enough concern but combined with an above-average flu season and still-circulating the COVID, the result is full hospitals and a healthcare system that may be forced to pull resources from other points of care, such as elective surgeries, to respond,” said Nate Smith, communications coordinator for the Clark County Combined Health District.

Rocking Horse Community Health Center, located on South Limestone Street in Springfield, has reported a high number of RSV cases and flu cases over the past few weeks.

“Illness is just kind of running rampant at the moment,” said Destany McCain, the pediatric team leader at Rocking Horse.

She said the health center has seen many sick infants enter its doors recently with respiratory difficulties. Multiple times per week over the last several weeks, the health center has needed to send patients to area hospitals for further care.

This past week, the health center has seen more school-aged children coming in for treatment of viral illnesses, according to McCain.

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RSV cases present themselves like the common cold, McCain said, complete with coughing, mucus build-up and at times even a fever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis – inflammation of the small airways in the lung – and pneumonia in children younger than one year of age.

Babies, young children, and older adults with chronic medical conditions or with weakened or compromised immune systems are at risk of severe disease from RSV infection. In some cases, RSV infection can lead to worsening of chronic conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Health workers at Rocking Horse are distributing packages filled with information about RSV, as well as doses of Tylenol, a thermometer and suctioning tools to patients that come into the center as a way of spreading awareness about RSV.

McCain said parents of infants who are sick with RSV should clear the airways of their babies often and make sure they’re hydrated often.

It’s unclear how many RSV cases have been reported in the county over the past several weeks, as the virus isn’t a reportable condition in the way Influenza-A and COVID-19 are. But the Centers for Disease Control tracks the number of RSV tests taken, as well as the tests that come back positive through participating laboratories in each state. Statewide RSV cases in November last year compared to this November show a significant spike in total RSV cases detected, according to the health district.

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Health experts are still working to determine the cause of the increase in cases of RSV this year, but one potential explanation is that decreased exposure to endemic viruses, like RSV, during the pandemic created an immunity gap for a group of susceptible people who avoided infection, according to Clark County’s health district.

ODH reported to county health districts this week that cases of RSV are “stabilizing,” but children’s hospitals across the state remain at or above 90% capacity.

McCain said Rocking Horse partnered with Dayton Children’s Hospital two weeks ago to undergo a comprehensive retraining of the center’s clinical staff in its pediatric department for respiratory emergencies.

Rocking Horse nursing director Christy Detrick said although the season has been busy, morale at the health center is high.

“They know the mission, and they come in ready to go every day,” she said.

The Clark County Combined Health District strongly encourages parents and guardians who may be concerned their child’s symptoms are RSV to consult with their primary healthcare provider.

Researchers at pharmaceutical company Pfizer are developing a vaccine for the prevention of RSV.

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