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Ohio health officials warn of ‘perilous situation’ as respiratory virus cases rise in children amid COVID-19 surge

This comes amid a rise in cases of children testing positive for COVID-19 nationwide.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Officials with the Ohio Department of Health expressed concern on Monday over an "unexpected" rise of respiratory illnesses reported in children amid a continued surge in COVID-19 cases statewide.

During the briefing, Nationwide Children's Hospital Chief Medical Officer Rustin Morse, alongside Chief Nursing Officer Lee Ann Wallace, discussed a rise in Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV; a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.

According to Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, more children are being hospitalized with an "unexpected summer surge" of respiratory illnesses.  

"With COVID-19 on the rise, we may be approaching a perilous situation," said Vanderhoff.

Vanderhoff said the Ohio Children's Hospital Association has reported seeing a wave of children being treated for RSV, parainfluenza virus and Rhinovirus.   

"These viruses typically occur in the winter months. However, they are now occurring in August," said Morse. 

While RSV mostly causes mild, cold-like symptoms in older children and young adults, Vanderhoff said it can cause much more serious symptoms in younger children, leading to trouble breathing and pneumonia in some cases. 

Overall, roughly 250 children who have been treated at Nationwide Children's Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19. As of Monday, 30 children at the hospital are being treated for RSV. 

Over the last seven days, 52 children have been hospitalized with RSV and 17 were in the ICU.

This comes amid a rise in cases of children testing positive for COVID-19 nationwide.

There is a total of 366 patients in Nationwide Children's Hospital as of Monday, with 12 of those testing positive for COVID-19. Three of those are in the ICU and one is on a ventilator.

Dr. Morse said while 12 children in the hospital may seem like a relatively low number, it is much higher than where the hospital was a couple of weeks ago when they had one or two, sometimes zero, kids hospitalized with COVID-19.

"This is putting an added strain on the healthcare delivery system," said Morse, who also cited a workforce shortage at the hospital as reason for concern.

Just last week, Dr. Forbes, who is a pediatric intensive care specialist, detailed a rise at Akron Children’s Hospital in children being treated for MIS-C, an inflammatory syndrome seen in children that is connected to COVID-19.

According to Forbes, many children who developed MIS-C came from families who had previously tested positive for the virus.

Monday’s press conference comes as children continue to head back to the classroom for in-person learning. Health officials have recommended parents receive the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of their child returning to school, saying it is the best defense against the virus.

"If you can vaccinated, please get vaccinated," said Patty Manning-Courtney, a pediatrician and chief of staff at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. 

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