RSV cases in children surge across Michigan, pediatric health leaders on high alert


Soraya Marashi


Michigan hospitals are under immense strain as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases continue to rise in the state, and this strain is being felt the most by pediatric hospitals.


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As of Nov. 4th, Michigan pediatric intensive care unit hospital beds were 89% occupied, according to data cited by the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA). Michigan Medicine’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital said on Thursday that it has reached 100% capacity and is experiencing a pediatric bed shortage.

Corewell Health East, the eastern division of the state’s largest health system, is also experiencing a pediatric bed shortage and began imposing additional visitation restrictions at its 8 hospitals on Monday. Children 5 years old or younger are currently not permitted to visit the hospital, except in extreme circumstances.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Corewell Health East has experienced a 1,579% increase in RSV cases in children since mid-September. Between Sept. 19th and Sept. 25th, Corewell Health East treated 34 kids with RSV, but between Oct. 31st and Nov. 6th, it treated 571 kids with RSV.

The MHA said that hospitals are also experiencing large numbers of children  visiting emergency departments for both emergent and non-emergent care, resulting in increased wait times for patients.

Health leaders in the state are still unsure of where the peak is for RSV cases this season. Hospitals across the state are urging Michiganders experiencing mild cold-like symptoms to stay at home and contact an urgent care or primary care physician’s office if symptoms worsen. Hospitals maintain that emergency department visits should be reserved for those with moderate to severe symptoms, including shortness of breath.

Gary Roth, Chief Medical Officer at MHA, emphasized the drastic impact of these pediatric bed shortages on higher acuity care settings.

“Hospitals are here for Michiganders, particularly in emergencies,” he said. “But our capacity to provide pediatric hospital care is extremely strained. Right now, the staffing challenges we have been sounding the alarms about all year combined with rapid spread of respiratory illnesses are impacting our hospitals’ ability to care for our sickest children in a timely manner.”

MHA and pediatric health leaders across the state encourage Michiganders to get vaccinated against respiratory illnesses, remain patient if seeking care through a hospital emergency department, consider having children wear masks in public places, practice frequent and proper handwashing, and stay home if feeling unwell, to combat this surge.

“Many of us in the pediatric medical community across Michigan are working to care for the surge of children battling RSV,” Matthew Denenberg, MD, Chief of Pediatrics at Corewell Health East and Chair of MHA’s Council on Children’s Health, said. “Our teams are here to help when the illness becomes severe. Parents and guardians can also help stop the spread of illness in our communities by getting children vaccinated against both flu and COVID-19. We all need to work together to keep our children safe.”