The disease is not dangerous for adults – but RSV can be life-threatening for infants and small children. Doctors are currently complaining about a rapid increase in cases. What symptoms should parents watch out for now?
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), infections with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) lead to increased illnesses and hospital admissions, especially in small children. According to the RKI weekly report on the development of the corona pandemic on Thursday evening, the numbers are expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks. In addition, RSV infections led to increased illnesses and hospital admissions, especially in small children.
The children’s intensive care and emergency physician Florian Hoffmann said in November about the development in small children: “It’s no longer a curve, but the values go up vertically.”
The Charité in Berlin is also struggling with the seasonal accumulation of acute respiratory viral infections in infants, including RSV. Those responsible just wrote on Twitter: “Like the other children’s hospitals in Berlin, the Charité is currently under significant strain, and the number of infants to be cared for is increasing. Our wards, including the intensive care unit, have been heavily occupied for several weeks. Children transferred from the emergency room to other clinics in Berlin and Brandenburg.
In several federal states there was hardly a free cot in clinics by the end of November, said Hoffmann, including
The Secretary General of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) and Senior Physician at Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital in Munich spoke of “disaster conditions”: families with sick children sometimes had to sleep on a bunk in the emergency room. That is a sign of poverty for Germany. Many affected children are seriously ill and need to be ventilated.
You can get RSV at any age, but the pathogen is particularly important in infants and small children. The infection is usually harmless for adults, and many children also survive it well. It can be a simple respiratory infection, but severe courses up to death are also possible.
The RKI, for example, counts among risk patients
The RKI, citing estimates, states that RSV respiratory diseases worldwide with an incidence
occur in the first year of life.
Within the first year of life, normally 50 to 70 percent and by the end of the second year almost all children would have had at least one infection with RSV. In the course of the corona protection measures, however, many such infections were temporarily absent.
“If a small child obviously has difficulty breathing, breathes quickly and has wheezing noises, especially when exhaling, these are alarm signals,” says pediatrician Ulrich Fegeler from the Professional Association of Pediatricians (BVKJ). Wheezing means: When you breathe, you hear a whistling, crackling or hissing sound.
According to the pediatrician, in addition to fever and cough, another sign is when the child seems more tired than usual. Parents should also take feeding problems seriously. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the child may refuse to eat or drink or vomit.
All of these signs are reason enough to have them checked out by a pediatrician or, if necessary, in the emergency room, explains the BVKJ. According to the experts, an RSV infection can lead to bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small bronchi. The mucous membranes then swell and mucus forms, which makes it difficult for the child to breathe. RSV infection can also lead to pneumonia.
There had already been an unusually high RSV wave in late summer 2021 – but the situation is currently worse, said Hoffmann. Not only in Germany, but generally in the northern hemisphere, there is a “dramatic epidemic event”. Many children of one or two years old are affected who – also in view of the corona pandemic and the measures taken against it – have had no contact with the RSV, explained Hoffmann.
The current RKI weekly report says that the number of acute respiratory diseases in general has risen again significantly compared to the previous week, according to data from the online survey “GrippeWeb”. In the week to November 27, it was a good eight million, well above the range of pre-pandemic years.
This is also reflected in the recording of patients newly admitted to the hospital with severe acute respiratory infections (sarees): Currently, due to the unusually strong RSV circulation, there are significantly more cases of sarees in children up to four years old than in the pre-pandemic years and in the previous year, as the RKI said. The saree values are also at a very high level in the following age groups up to 14 years.
The Divi is currently meeting in Hamburg on the situation in pediatric intensive care. They discuss demands and proposed solutions to improve the care of seriously ill children. “We won’t be able to take care of everyone this winter. Colleagues all over the country don’t know what to do with our little patients,” said Hoffmann in advance. Structures to deal with the situation are not in place and the existing registers for the bed situation are often not up to date due to a lack of time. “We should now actually activate emergency mechanisms, for example call in nursing staff from adult medicine.” A point that Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach has now initiated.
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