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Significant number of respiratory illness among children

Children's Hospital at or above capacity
Spike in respiratory illness among children in Erie County
Posted at 4:50 PM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 17:16:47-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “We have seen more RSV this season then we saw all of last respiratory season,” said Dr. Stephen Turkovich, chief medical officer, Oishei Children’s Hospital.

There is a significant number of a respiratory illness called RSV, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, effecting infants and young children in our community.

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Dr. Stephen Turkovich, chief medical officer, Oishei Children’s Hospital &
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein hold joint news conference.

Turkovich was joined by Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein to warn parents and the community about the symptoms and strategies to prevent the spread of RSV and the flu.

Oishei Children's Hospital is seeing a significant number of children admitted with respiratory distress. A record number of 28-children in the ICU. And that is complicated by high flu rates.

“The hospital continues to be at or above capacity – our ICU has expanded again,” Dr. Turkovich said.

500-children tested positive for the flu at Children's, compared to 160 at this time last year.

“So, you can see that both the burden of flu and RSV in the community is significantly higher this year then compared to last year at this time,” Dr. Turkovich remarked.

Dr. Turkovich says some children with RSV are hospitalized because they need oxygen therapy and are dehydrated. RSV can be most difficult for the youngest of children, those two and under.

“It’s very difficult for them to breast feed and/or suck down on a bottle when their nose is congested and they're trying to breath,” Dr. Turkovich explained.

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Dr. Stephen Turkovich, chief medical officer, Oishei Children’s Hospital &
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein hold joint news conference at Children's.

So, what can you do as a parent to protect your children? Watch and listen.

“They're in trouble when you hear them systematically grunting to try to take a breathe – with each breathe – and then they also might look blue, have severe coughing, might be very irritable or might be unusually fatigued or not eating well,” stated Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner. “They don’t look comfortable – they might have nasal flaring’s, so their nostrils are flaring up because they’re trying to suck in some oxygen. They’re pulling at their chest to breath so the skin in their ribs are pulling in and you might see their head bobbing – you know really making a big effort to breath.”

Dr. Burstein says you can stop the spread of RSV by frequent hand washing and cleaning.

“Viruses are very durable on surfaces, like counter tops or tabletops or utensils or doorknobs – so you want to make sure that you want to wash all those surfaces do,” said Dr. Burstein.

Children's Hospital has posted a change in its visitor policy in response to this severe flu season.

Children under five should not visit. And you should not visit if you are sick.

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Inside Children's Hospital lobby.

"Also, really important – that if you have a young child a baby or child with any sort of chronic illness – please keep them home. Do not bring your babies out to areas where there’s a lot of public restaurant, churches and things like that. That’s an opportunity for them to become exposed to these illnesses,” Dr. Turkovich stated.

With such a high capacity, the hospital is working to make sure they are properly staffed.

"We’ve been working with our staff very closely - making sure they are staying healthy and they're not getting burned out because of the significant volume,” Dr. Turkovich responded.