Parents of babies hospitalized with RSV have shared their horror stories amid an aggressive and early outbreak that threatens to overwhelm kids’ hospitals.
Three-quarters of pediatric beds across the US is full with children with respiratory illnesses in what has been described as the ‘worst RSV season’ in decades.
Allison Blocker from North Carolina revealed her horror after daughter Ava was put on a ventilator when a ‘mucus plug’ caused her lungs to ‘collapse’.
She said: ‘You can’t help but go to that place, you can’t help but go to, “I’m going to lose my baby. I got just eight weeks with my baby, I’m going to lose my baby”.’
Mother Shanistry Ireland from Columbus, Ohio, also revealed her two-month-old son Asa was hospitalized after RSV led his breathing to become labored.
She said it left her just ‘standing there in trauma’ in the hospital and ‘bawling my eyes out’ while doctors tried to console her.
Experts have repeatedly told DailyMail.com lockdowns and measures used to contain Covid like face masks also suppressed the spread of germs which are crucial for building a strong immune system in children.
It comes amid mounting concern over a ‘tripledemic’ this winter with seasonal menaces returning ‘with a vengeance’ while Covid infections are also expected to tick back up.
The above graph shows the number of positive tests for RSV viruses by date in the United States. It reveals they have now reached their highest levels since 2020, before the pandemic began. Data is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Asa Ireland, two months old and from Columbus, Ohio, was hospitalized with RSV after it left him struggling to breathe. He is pictured with mother Shanistry, who said it had left her ‘scared’ and ‘bawling my eyes out’
Mother Allison Blocker said her daughter Ava had to be put on a ventilator for a week after an RSV infection led her lungs to collapse. Speaking of her fears, she said: ‘You can’t help but go to that place, you can’t help but go to, “I’m going to lose my baby”
Paitynn Brand, two months old, (left) was left struggling to breathe by an RSV infection. She eventually had to be airlifted to a hospital 100 miles from her home. On the right is Asa Ireland, who was left struggling to breathe by an RSV infection
Ms Blocker explained how when her daughter first fell ill she had just a cough and a runny nose.
But within a few days the eight-week-old began to wheeze from the mucus.
Concerned Ms Blocker took her to the local clinic where nurses took ‘just one look’ at her before calling an ambulance.
Once at the hospital doctors hooked her up to a high flow oxygen machine.
Ava Blocker, eight weeks old and from North Carolina, was put onto a ventilator for seven days after catching RSV. Her mother said the it was traumatizing
But after two-and-a-half days they put her on a ventilator when mucus led to her lungs collapsing.
Ms Blocker told FOX8 that seeing her little daughter on the machine ‘just rips your heart out’.
‘It makes you feel like… that you’re losing the ability to breathe because your baby can’t breathe,’ she said.
‘This is something that no parent ever wants to see. No parent should ever have to see.’
After a week on a ventilator Ava’s condition improved, allowing for her to be discharged.
WHAT IS RSV?
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a very common virus that almost all children become infected with by the age of two.
In older children and adults, RSV can trigger colds and coughs, but it can cause bronchiolitis in young children.
The virus is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can survive on a surface for up to 24 hours.
Children remain infectious for up to three weeks, even after their symptoms have passed.
RSV accounts for 450,000 GP appointments, 29,000 hospitalisations and 83 deaths per year among children in the UK.
In the US, it leads to around 58,000 hospitalisations and 100 to 500 deaths among children aged younger than five.
But Ms Blocker says the family will continue to live with the mental scars of the experience.
In another case two-month-old Asa Ireland from Ohio needed to ‘fight for his life’ after an RSV infection left him gasping for air.
Like Ava, Asa also came down with typical symptoms of a cold in mid-October.
But once again these also became ‘severe’ making his breathing ‘labored and restricted’ to the extent his rib cage started retracting.
His mother Shanistry told TODAY: ‘It was terrifying. I was standing there in trauma, talking to doctors and nurses, and I’m just bawling my eyes out, and they were trying to explain to me what was going on.’
Ms Ireland’s older son Adam, now six, had also been struck down by RSV when he was just six weeks old.
This left her feeling ‘extremely guilty that I let it get that far’ to see another son catch the illness. She said: ‘I had no idea what my child had, and I had no idea that he was quite frankly fighting for his life.’
He was rushed to hospital where doctors diagnosed him with bronchitis, rhinovirus, RSV and an ear infection.
It was not detailed what treatment he received, but the youngster was discharged in four days as his condition improved.
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common infection that virtually all children get before they are two years old triggering cold-like symptoms.
But during the pandemic restrictions like face masks and social distancing meant to stop Covid also led it to stop circulating.
This triggered falling immunity as people were no longer catching it, and meant children were not exposed to beneficial germs at an early age.
Amid the first winter without restrictions since the pandemic began RSV has returned with a ‘vengeance’.
The number of children hospitalized with it is already at levels equivalent to December during a very bad year, and at their highest level at this time for the last four years.
A total of six children per 100,000 are currently hospitalized with RSV, with the all-time record being 7.3 per 100,000.
It is not clear how many children have died in the latest wave, but normally about 100 to 500 die from the virus every year. Some 177,000 are also hospitalized.
In another case of a serious RSV infection Georgia Vacca, four months old, was hospitalized with serious breathing problems due to the virus.
Pictured is Georgia Vacca, four months old, who was hospitalized with RSV
Her father Bill said: ‘Her breathing, you could hear not just sounding very congested, but her chest was doing a lot of up and down rapid movements, contracting.’
They quickly scrubbed plans for daycare to take her to the emergency room near their home in Albany, New York, which was ‘packed’ with other sick infants.
She was diagnosed with an RSV infection, and admitted to hospital for four days requiring oxygen every few hours. She also had suction to clear mucus from her airways.
Bill told TODAY: ‘We were definitely terrified, especially when we saw that she needed to go on oxygen and had tubes in her nose and all the cords hooked up to her.
‘We all had a moment of crying and couldn’t believe that this was happening.’
More than 70 per cent of the nation’s 40,000 pediatric intensive care beds are already full, figures suggest, with many infants suffering from RSV.
Several hospitals are already buckling under the strain leaving them needing to call in extra doctors or even the National Guard to prop up units.
Her mother Hannah Brand said her daughter had to be put on oxygen and sedated to help her recover from the common respiratory illness
Doctors say the RSV season appears to have started a ‘month early’ and is already shaping up to be ‘the worst’ in decades.
Dr Suresh Nagappan, from Moses Cone Children’s Unit in North Carolina, said: ‘We are seeing probably the worst RSV year that I’ve seen in my career.
‘We’re really just supporting them through until the virus gets better and unfortunately there’s no magic medicine that will make them better right away.’
Dr Tracey Ginaitt, a clinical manager at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, told TODAY: ‘It’s very worrisome because we’re not even in winter. It’s still only fall.
‘As the winter hits, as flu starts coming, where are we going to put these kids?’
She said her hospital is already at 125 per cent capacity, with some sick children now having to be put outside the main wards.
Connecticut Children’s hospital is already under such strain that it has been left with no alternative but to call in the National Guard.
After developing a cold the youngster then started to ‘pant’ every time she took a breathe
In another case a two-month-old baby girl was airlifted 100 miles away from her home to her hospital after an RSV infection left her struggling to breathe.
Mother Hannah Brand said her daughter Paitynn initially appeared to just be suffering a cold.
But after a few days she began to ‘pant’ every time she took a breath, and was almost sweating. At times the skin around her ribs would sink in as she gasped for air.
Ms Brand rushed her daughter to a local hospital, which decided to airlift her to the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, 100 miles away.
Paitynn was put on oxygen to help her breathing and sedated to help her get more sleep and rest.
This quickly led to her oxygen improving and heart rate, leading her to slowly recover. She was discharged after two days.
Ms Brand, who works as a pediatric nurse, told GMA: ‘When she would breathe, she was panting and you could see she was almost kind of sweating. She was working so hard to take a breath.
‘A huge alarm to me was the sinking in of the skin around her ribs, called retractions, and for kiddos, especially in a two-month-old, retractions is a huge sign of increased work of breathing.
‘So this was a big, big indicator that something is wrong here, that this is more than just a cold.’
Asked whether her training helped, Ms Brand said: ‘It was a huge advantage that I knew what to look for and how to intervene should I need to.
‘But at the time I was 100 per cent in mom mode and I was very terrified.’
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows there were 2,700 flu cases last week.
That was up by 31 per cent from the previous week, and triple the level a month ago when there were around 800.
But the figures represent a vast underestimate because the US does not routinely test for influenza in the same way as Covid.
Experts are on high alert about the virus after it made a resurgence in the southern hemisphere — which typically has a flu season that runs from April to October.
Covid cases in the US are also now starting to plateau at about 35,000 infections a day. They are beginning to rise in some states including Hawaii, Oklahoma and Kansas.