As RSV cases and hospitalizations surge, only 6 percent of pediatric ICU beds are open in Illinois

Doctors share RSV treatments and when to take your child to the ER

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Thursday, October 27, 2022
Illinois pediatric ICU beds are 94% full as RSV cases surge
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Illinois' top doc Dr. Sameer Vohra is urging parents to take preventative measures against RSV as only 6% of pediatric ICU beds are open in the state.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Local doctors are raising the alarm about preventing the spread of RSV, a respiratory illness in children, that is causing a large number of hospitalizations.

Currently, RSV -- along with other viruses -- means most of the pediatric intensive care unit bed in our state are full.

In Illinois, there are 289 so-called PICU, or pediatric ICU, beds. Ninety-four percent of them are full. Half of them are in Chicago.

WATCH | When to take your child with RSV to the ER

Doctors share tell-tale signs you need to take your child with RSV to the hospital.

Rush University Medical Center shared some video of what they are seeing as therapists and nurses help a surge of pediatric patients hospitalized with RSV and other viruses. Protocols are in place as the medical staff there treat kids now.

"We are seeing a huge influx of these kids coming to the hospitals and it's unseasonably early," said Anne Geistkemper, a neonatal pediatric respiratory therapy manager at Rush.

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Geistkemper said they have tripled their respiratory support therapies since September and suggests parents call their pediatrician if a child is struggling to breathe.

"You might see them tugging a bit more at their neck, maybe breathing a little harder with their belly, even breathing in so hard that you can kind of see some ribs," Geistkemper said.

WATCH | How is RSV treated?

What is RSV? Rush University Medical Center doctor describes symptoms and treatment for virus.

Pediatric hospitals in our area have more capacity. But our ABC7 Data Team analyzed federal data and found an increase in pediatric beds in use from October 14-20 at some facilities in our area.

Advocate Children's Hospital compares surge in RSV cases to 'March 2020'

For example, UChicago Medicine Comer saw an 8% increase from a month ago in daily average bed occupancy. Rush saw an 11% increase, and Lurie was unchanged from a month ago.

"Because they are breathing so hard and getting sick, it's hard for them to eat or drink which can lead to dehydration which can also lead to an emergency room visit or hospital setting," said Dr. Sameer Vohra, the director of Illinois' Dept. of Public Health, and also a pediatrician and father.

"Halloween, birthday parties... be careful, get your vaccine and stay home if you're sick," Dr. Vohra said.

Dr. Vohra urges preventive measures as pediatric ICU beds are currently limited in the state, with only 6% available now.