Respiratory illnesses hitting hospitals in Oregon hard

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) case rates are continuing to rise in Oregon, and local hospitals say the wave has reached unprecedented levels and has pushed them into crisis mode.

Oregon Health and Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital doesn’t have any available pediatric ICU beds, and Legacy’s Randall Children’s Hospital announced Tuesday that it would begin postponing some non-urgent pediatric surgeries.

Both hospitals are operating at crisis standards, which means their critical care services are severely limited, with some patients in need of critical care being transferred to other hospitals, although so far only Randall has said it must start postponing surgeries.

Providence announced Wednesday that the pediatric unit, pediatric ICU and neonatal ICU at its St. Vincent Medical Center have all moved into crisis care standards, although it hospital said it is not at the point of having to make triage care decisions, and is using the crisis standard to maximize available resources.

“[RSV] is coming at the beginning of the flu season as well, and we haven’t gotten rid of COVID either, so it’s a combination, sort of the triple whammy this year,” said Dr. Marianne Parshley, President of the Oregon Medical Association, and a doctor in East Portland.

“I don’t think that the hospitals in general are at the place they were at at the peak of the omicron surge, because that tended to be more adult care and adult ICU care, but for pediatric, there are less pediatric beds in hospitals because kids don’t get sick at the same rate as adults do, and so they have fewer beds, fewer ICU beds, and therefore the capacity is being strained.”

The worst is still to come, doctors have said — Oregon isn’t even near the peak of the wave, which won’t arrive until after the holidays.

RSV is a respiratory virus that typically causes mild infections but can cause serious illness babies, older people, pregnant women and those who are immunocompromised. It’s spread by coughing and sneezing and typically presents with symptoms like the common cold.

Here’s what doctors recommend to prevent the spread of RSV:

  • Avoid contact with those who are sick
  • If you don’t feel well, stay home
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces

Doctors are also urging people to stay up to date on routine vaccinations like flu shots and COVID 19 boosters in order take the strain off hospitals heading into a season where both viruses will also be prevalent.

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