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Nationwide surge in pediatric respiratory viruses hits home, other seasonal illnesses expected

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Meritus Health sees cases of RSV surge, preventative measures encouraged

HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Many seasonal illnesses, including flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), are known to become more widespread during the month of October.

Leaders at Meritus Health are encouraging everyone to help prevent the spread of viral illness as they note a surge in RSV cases impacting young patients.

“We are reminding our community of the resources Meritus provides to help arm them against seasonal illness,” explained president and CEO, Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H. “We encourage eligible community members to receive the Bivalent COVID booster and flu vaccines. For other viruses, including RSV, that can’t be vaccinated against, we want our entire community to protect our most vulnerable patients by staying vigilant.”

Joshi said over the past two weeks, a newly created pediatric hospitalist team has cared for more than two dozen children ill with RSV at Meritus Medical Center.

“While we are proud to offer this high quality hospital care in our community, we never want to see young children hospitalized. We want our community to help prevent these hospitalizations by staying vigilant at home and in the community,” Joshi said.

Dr. Anand Budi, a longtime pediatrician in Washington County and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Meritus Health said the virus can be particularly severe in children less than two years of age, and especially under one year old; and in children who are born prematurely or who are immunocompromised.

“This spreads quickly and it takes the vigilance of an entire community to protect children,” he said. “The surge has caused intensive care units and children’s hospitals across the country to be at capacity.”

Dr. Budi said many children are exposed to RSV and other seasonal illnesses at daycare. He’s encouraging parents to keep children home who have a runny nose with a cough, fever, and sore throat.

The CDC reports that RSV results in approximately 58,000 annual hospitalizations and 100 to 300 deaths among children under 5. This virus is the most common cause of severe respiratory illness in young children, as well as the leading cause of death from respiratory illness in those aged 65 and older.

Meritus Health says everyone can help prevent the spread of RSV and other seasonal illnesses by:

  • Wash your hands often and with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Keep your hands off your face
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces
  • If possible stay home from work and keep children home from school/daycare

The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine, ideally by the end of October.

Call your healthcare provider if you or your child is having the following: difficulty breathing (short, shallow and rapid breathing); struggling to breathe (chest muscles and skin pull inward with each breath); poor feeing; unusual tiredness or irritability.

Meritus Health offers a variety of options when you or a loved one is not feeling well. This includes Meritus Urgent Care, Meritus After Hours Pediatrics and our virtual care option, MeritusNow. More details can be found at MeritusHealth.com/Icky.

For information on COVID-19 vaccine details, visit MeritusHealth.com/COVID.