Hospitals across New York are already seeing spikes in child hospitalizations linked to respiratory ailments, with a warning from Dr. Jay Varma, one of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top pandemic advisers.
Health officials and doctors in New York City are urging people to undertake extra virus precautions for a third straight year, warning the triple threat of COVID-19, flu season and the early emergence of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) could lead to higher rates of illness among certain groups, and especially so on children.
Currently, emergency department visits for kids under 5 years of age with suspected acute respiratory infections are at their highest level in nearly a year, data shows. Nearly 35,500 kids under age 5 so far visited New York City ERs this month for respiratory issues, the second most-affected age group behind people ages 18 to 64. The Bronx and Brooklyn account for the highest share of visits.
The numbers exclude kids presenting with flu-like illnesses and those who are later diagnosed with flu, which means the severe respiratory cases are likely higher. They do group pneumonia into COVID-like disease, however.
“What we’ve been dealing with recently is the significant uptick in the number of children who are showing up to emergency departments with RSV,” said Dr. James Schneider, the chief of pediatric critical care at Cohen Children’s.
But Schneider says he’s seeing an influx of all three viruses among pediatric patients — and much earlier than usual.
According to Varma, whether flu, COVID, or RSV, parents should follow the same protocol: Get vaccinated, wear masks, stay in ventilated areas, avoid others who are sick, and wash hands.