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11/22/2022 5:46:41 PM Reporting from Detroit,MI
Celebrating Thanksgiving during RSV and flu season requires balance
11/22/2022 5:46:41 PM
As we head into the winter holidays, the last several weeks will be remembered for the remarkably colorful fall season and the early, significant surge in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Celebrating Thanksgiving during RSV and flu season requires balance

Beaumont Health

Celebrating Thanksgiving during RSV and flu season requires balance

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

As pediatric RSV numbers fall, Corewell Health East expert: “Live life, but stay home if you feel sick”

As we head into the winter holidays, the last several weeks will be remembered for the remarkably colorful fall season and the early, significant surge in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Since the week of Oct. 31-Nov. 6, when the number of pediatric patients treated at Corewell Health East—both inpatient and through emergency centers—reached 577, pediatric RSV numbers have been on the decline.

The week of Nov. 7-13, that number dropped to 520, and the week of Nov. 14-20, cases dropped again to 302.

“This is good news for our community and our health care teams,” said Whitney Minnock, M.D., pediatric chief of Emergency, Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital, formerly Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. “The reason for the decline is unknown but could be the result of the disease’s natural progression. We can’t be sure if this is permanent or temporary. With influenza cases on the rise in other states and locally, we all must remain vigilant. But on the RSV front, things are moving in the right direction.”

One of those hospitalized with RSV in October at Corewell Health Beaumont Troy Hospital was the infant son of Melissa Parker, a pediatric nurse and mother of three.

“It happened very quickly,” said Parker, whose oldest child, age 3, likely brought the virus home from preschool to 6-month-old Owen and his 20-month-old brother. RSV is especially rampant in preschools and daycares.

“We noticed Owen became lethargic and wasn’t eating. When his upper lip started turning blue, we took him to the emergency room right away,” she said. “And thank goodness we did. Infants and young children have no reserve and can decline rapidly.”

Owen received support from a high-flow nasal canula and a nasal-prong ventilator, both which provided oxygen, and a feeding tube. He experienced a lingering cough, which is typical. But since coming home from the hospital Oct. 31, his condition has stabilized and he continues to gain weight and grow stronger.

Parker recommends parents educate themselves on symptoms, monitor little ones carefully for signs of disease progression and contact their pediatrician or go to the emergency center accordingly.

Happily, her family will still be participating in a traditional, multi-generational family Thanksgiving. She did, however, add one important caveat to the invitation.

“I always ask my family to get their flu shots beforehand,” Parker said. “But this year, I’ve also said, ‘If you’re feeling sick, it would probably be best to stay home.’”

Dr. Minnock recommends these precautions as well. She is also urging families to exercise balance.

“If we head into the holidays and everybody is scared, that is not good for mental health,” said Dr. Minnock, who also has four children ages 5 and under. “I plan on being with my family this Thanksgiving. But some important precautions will be part of our celebration. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at increased risk for complications from RSV and flu.”

Specifically, Dr. Minnock recommends the following Thanksgiving holiday safety precautions:

  • If you are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms including fever, runny nose and cough, refrain from attending in-person gatherings. RSV can linger for up to a month, but the highest viral load continues up until 24 hours after the fever has broken. For best results, limit one-on-one contact with others during this time.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Proper hand hygiene is essential to stopping the spread of disease.
  • Don’t kiss or touch the face of infants or small children.
  • If you haven’t already done so, get your flu shot.

Meanwhile, system-wide numbers for adult patients treated for RSV are up slightly from the week before. During the weeks starting Sept. 19 and 26, 5 and 6 adult patients were treated, compared to the weeks starting Nov. 7 and Nov. 14, when those numbers grew to 84 and 90 adult patients respectively.

“It’s still too early to know if we are over the hump,” Dr. Minnock said. “Post-Thanksgiving numbers will provide more information. But we are moving in the right direction. With other states already experiencing a surge in influenza, we are expecting flu to become a concern in Michigan as well.”

What to look out for:

Parents should seek immediate medical attention if their child has difficulty breathing, a high fever, or a blue color to the skin, particularly on the lips and in the nail beds, Dr. Matthew Denenberg, MD, chief of Pediatrics for Corewell Health East and chair of the Michigan Hospital Association’s Council on Children’s Health, stressed.

Additional signs and symptoms of severe RSV infection in infants include:

  • Short, shallow and rapid breathing
  • Struggling to breathe — chest muscles and skin pull inward with each breath
  • Cough
  • Poor feeding
  • Unusual tiredness (lethargy)
  • Irritability

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