On Wednesday, we'll get more insight into how many RSV, flu and COVID-19 cases there are in the state. This data will reflect the impact of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings.

Local hospitals reported seeing an influx of respiratory illnesses. UNC Health is determining whether or not to pause elective procedures while some hospital floors are swamped with patients.

"I think we're seeing a spike of RSV, as well as other viruses and children, not only in the number of positive tests, but also in the number of admissions," said Dr. Benny Joyner, a doctor with UNC Health specializing in pediatric critical care medicine. "As we get more RSV into the community, you know, there is an opportunity for many children to be impacted severely, and roughly five to 10% of those as general numbers will end up coming into the hospital," Joyner said.

He said that percentage is fairly reflective of what the health system is currently seeing.

"So we're at around 250 or so positive RSV tests that we see in our system, and about five to 10% of those, so some around 20 to 30 of those individuals are now in our hospital, which is, is certainly impacting our operations," he added.

At UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill last week, they confirmed about 165 cases of RSV and more than 60 flu cases. COVID numbers remain relatively low.

Doctors encourage parents to get their kids vaccinated when they’re eligible, teach good hand hygiene and to stay home when they’re sick to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.

Wake Med has had RSV-related visitation restrictions in place since Oct. 1.

Between November 23rd to December 3rd, the hospital reports 460 positive RSV tests with 35 hospitalizations. It has had 418 positive flu tests with 13 hospitalized and 321 positive COVID tests with 47 hospitalizations.

Meanwhile, Duke Health officials said cases of COVID are declining. Flu and RSV cases are increasing.

RSV cases over the year
RSV cases over the year

Here’s a breakdown of their current data:

  • 47 hospitalizations total for COVID at all three hospitals
    • 24 for Duke University Hospital
    • 17 Duke Regional
    • 6 Duke Raleigh
  • 23 hospitalizations total for influenza currently all three hospitals:
    • 13 for Duke University Hospital
    • 6 for Duke Regional
    • 4 for Duke Raleigh
  • 57 hospitalizations for RSV total all three hospitals
    • 43 for Duke University Hospital
    • 6 for Duke Regional
    • 8 for Duke Raleigh

Dr. Joyner said RSV cases are more severe for children than they are for adults.

"For kids, because they have smaller airways, that congestion, that sort of difficulty breathing really gets impacted. And so I think we'll see that typical cold as adults that we see it really get amplified and really become more severe in children, and especially those children that are already are either younger, so generally under the age of two, and also those that have other chronic underlying medical conditions that might affect their breathing, like asthma, or any sort of muscular weakness," he said.

The number of current cases are impacting typical hospital operations.

"We are completely at capacity. Our floors at pediatric ICU, are not only filled with the typical operative cases and other illnesses that we see, but because we're having such a huge influx of respiratory viruses and illnesses, it really creates a challenge for us to be flexible with admitting the other things that we need to do,” he said.

The health system is having conversations right now about what operative cases should go or not go.

"They haven't been severely impacted yet. But you know, if things continue on this trend, I don't know how much longer we can sort of be able to continue our normal operations," said Dr. Joyner.

According to health officials, the peak of RSV is around five to seven days. Then it takes around five to seven days to recover. Children who are severely impacted may stay up to 20 days in the hospital.

"If your child has any symptoms of a cold, a viral infection, such as a runny nose, cough, fever, you know, really as best as you can try to keep them out of daycare or out of an environment in which they can, you know, gather with other kids, it really does spread through aerosolized droplets," Dr. Joyner said.

The more parents can do at home to protect their children from illnesses, the better, given the current challenges to receive rapid emergency care services or the obstacles to obtain a hospital bed.

There are warning signs parents can be watching for.

“The things to look for are pulling or tugging. So if you look at around their neck, as they're breathing, if they look like they're pulling, or tugging or working really hard to breathe. For infants, especially if they're not taking liquids as they normally do. So they don't take to their bottle. Because little babies, they're only version of exercise and activities is eating, you know, and crying. And so if they're not doing that, while they're awake, or if they're sleeping longer than usual, and not making as many wet diapers, those are things to pay attention to,” said Dr. Joyner.

The latest data from the State Department of Health and Human Services shows emergency department visits for RSV were up 6% from the previous week.

While RSV cases detected in hospital patients are down about 8% week over week, they're still higher than they've been in a year.

The state’s latest numbers on RSV, flu and COVID will be released Wednesday at noon.

Vaccines for all three illnesses are still available.

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