Respiratory illnesses up 300% at St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 6:02 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Flu and RSV cases have spiked in the last two weeks. St. Louis Children’s Hospital reports a 300 percent jump in RSV and other respiratory illnesses from the same time last year.

Caroline Livingstone has twin 10-month-old boys nicknamed Chip and Moss. Both had RSV, and one spent the night in the hospital because of difficulty breathing.

“Admitted to the hospital overnight and then released the next day because he was able to get off the oxygen and was able to do a lot better on his own,” she said.

RSV usually strikes children under the age of two years old. The symptoms are usually similar to a common cold but can turn severe.

According to Dr. Rachel Orscheln, a Washington University pediatric infectious disease specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, here are the warning signs that tell you a child needs to get medical care immediately and might have RSV:

  • Any difficulty breathing
  • Unable to take liquids
  • Decreased amount of wet diapers
  • Not waking up to feed
  • Fever over 100.4 in babies less than 3 months old
  • Extreme weakness or change in mental state

The number of flu cases has also jumped dramatically in the last two weeks, affecting children and adults.

Washington University Infectious Disease Specialist at Barnes Jewish Hospital, Dr. Steve Lawrence, told News 4 that each flu season sees a rise in cases but it’s hitting three to four weeks early this season.

“The flu is reintroducing itself to our population, and it’s introducing itself with a bang,” said Lawrence.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported 1,738 cases of influenza last week alone. Since the start of flu season, 4,016 cases have been reported, compared to 809 at this time of year during the pre-pandemic flu season of 2018-2019.

Half the cases of flu being reported are in the age group of 5-24 years old.

The low number of flu cases during the pandemic as the result of COVID safety measures might be playing a role in the sharp increase this season.

“When there is a period of time over one or two seasons where very few people get the flu, that level of exposure and constant exposure to the even milder infections goes away. So our overall level of immunity against it probably does wane,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence said if the number of hospitalizations due to flu cases keeps rising, it could put a strain on local hospitals.