CHOC seeing record-setting respiratory virus pediatric cases alongside nation

CHOC saw a 50% increase in daily average patient total this past Monday.

Jessica De Nova Image
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

Doctors say the influx of patients is largely due to the spike in respiratory virus cases in children, particularly respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and rhino and enterovirus, which spread through droplets and respiratory secretions.

ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- The Children's Hospital of Orange County and other pediatric hospitals across the country are seeing record-setting occupancy levels.

"We are as full as we have ever been and I think that this is similar to other children's hospitals across the nation," said CHOC's Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Theodore Heyming, calling occupancy levels unprecedented.

CHOC saw a 50% increase in daily average patient total this past Monday. On Tuesday, CHOC was continuing its expanded patient intake inside and outside near the valet area.

According to Heyming, the hospital was full, but neither patients nor ambulances were being turned away.

Heyming told Eyewitness News CHOC was not in diversion. He said on average, CHOC has 300 patients daily, but kicked the week off Monday with 444 patients. That's a nearly 50% increase.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nationally, pediatric bed occupancy was at the highest it has been in two years, with nearly 75% of beds filled on average over the last week.

Heyming said the influx of patients was because of a spike in respiratory virus cases in children, particularly respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and rhino and enterovirus, which spread through droplets and respiratory secretions.

Symptoms include fever, runny nose and coughing. This time around though, it's worse and here earlier, with infants at greatest risk.

READ ALSO | RSV in children: Symptoms, treatment and what parents should know

Doctors said most children did well with fever medication, hydration or inhalers, but if a child was having trouble breathing, a trip to the ER was necessary.

"Children don't usually get as sick as they're getting with this illness in other years and so we're experiencing more wheezing throughout the population of Orange County which is what they're also seeing nationally," Heyming said.

Across the way at Providence St. Joseph Hospital, and down south at Providence Mission Hospital, it was the same story.

The Medical Director of the Emergency Care Center at Providence St. Joseph Hospital Dr. Brian Lee said his department's occupancy was at 80% to 90% on Tuesday.

"Most of the kids grew up in isolation, so when we came out of the isolation, we're seeing a lot of different viruses emerge as people are basically opening up and unmasking," Lee said.

Heyming is asking the public to lend a hand by getting their flu shot.

"We anticipate influenza virus to be increasing come December. So what people can do is get vaccinated for both themselves and their other family members to try to prevent further increase in patient volumes that we have," said Heyming.

The doctors said the best ways to prevent spread of RSV and rhino enterovirus were to wash your hands, cover your coughs and keep your children and yourselves home if symptomatic.