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The US is seeing an ‘unprecedented’ rise in respiratory viruses

A rise in respiratory illnesses among children is beginning to put pressure on hospitals.

In particular, hospitals are seeing an increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or a common cold virus that can be associated with severe illness in young children and older adults. Cases are rising in several regions of the US, with some already approaching seasonal peaks, according to the latest real-time surveillance data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Surveillance data collected by the CDC clearly shows an increase in RSV cases across the country in recent weeks, with cases detected by PCR tests more than tripling in the last two months and approaching peaks in 2021. The program CDC’s surveillance report presents data from 75 counties representing about 9% of the total US population.

“RSV admissions have skyrocketed at Connecticut Children’s. October has been a month like never before for this virus,” Monica M. Buchanan, senior director of strategic and business communications at Connecticut Children’s Hospital, told CNN.

Buchanan said hospital leaders have met with the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the National Guard to begin the logistical review of placing a mobile field hospital on the front lawn and more work is planned to determine a final decision and obtain the approval.

Dr. Juan Salazar, executive vice president and chief physician at Connecticut Children’s, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan that beds are full and children are coming to the hospital at an “unprecedented” level: more than 100 with respiratory problems from viruses in the last 10 days, including many requiring intensive care and oxygen therapy.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, I’ve been with Connecticut Children’s for 25 years and I’ve never seen this level of increase, specifically RSV, in our hospital,” she said.

Salazar said the hospital has not yet expanded into a field store, “but we have to be prepared in case the numbers continue to increase. So if RSV gets any bigger and hits us with the flu at the end of this…we will need additional capacity for our hospital.”