Researchers provide fall snapshot of viral illness surge at CHEO

Researchers provide fall snapshot of viral illness surge at CHEO

During the peak week of the viral flare-up in November, nearly half of all inpatients at CHEO had laboratory-confirmed respiratory viral disease

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Twice as many children were hospitalized at CHEO this fall for respiratory infections than in previous years — and those patients were sicker than before, according to a newly released study that offers a snapshot of the respiratory crisis at Children’s Hospital.

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During CHEO’s busiest month this fall, November, four times as many children were admitted to Stage 2 ICUs and three times as many were admitted to ICUs than previous peak periods, according to the study. Stage 2 includes patients who require extended respiratory or nursing support, such as: B. High-flow oxygen treatment to help them breathe.

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The season of severe viral diseases has hit CHEO and other children’s hospitals hard this year. CHEO opened a second intensive care unit, added more beds, redirected staff and enlisted additional help, including from the Red Cross, to cope with the surge. The province began referring some children over the age of 14 to adult hospitals.

But despite those efforts, the needs of all children and adolescents were not met this fall, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Nisha Thampi, Physician of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at CHEO. The researchers examined data from October 22 to December 10.

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“Operations have been delayed. Waiting lists got longer as more doctors cared for more admitted children,” she said on Twitter.

“Conclusion: These are not easy solutions. We continue to face a significant drain on human health resources to meet the demand for acute care literacy for children in our region, province and nationwide.”

File: Pediatric infectious disease physician, Dr.  Nisha Tampi.
File: Pediatric infectious disease physician, Dr. Nisha Tampi. Photo by Tony Caldwell /mail media

During the peak of the virus outbreak in November, nearly half of all inpatients at CHEO had laboratory-confirmed respiratory viral disease.

The study, produced by experts from CHEO and the Better Outcomes Registry & Network (BORN), underscores what officials have observed: This year’s virus surge was early, severe and unprecedented compared to previous years.

The authors of the non-peer-reviewed study say the increase underscores the need for more resources at the hospital.

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“Our findings underscore the need for additional broad-based health workers with expertise to care for critically ill infants and children, as well as operational services to support frontline workers in delivering safe and quality care.”

By Dec. 10, rates of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza began to fall, according to researchers, and rates of community COVID-19 were stable.

While acute SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 infections are not driving the current viral surge, the authors write that its role remains unclear.

“Their influence on the function of the immune system in infants and children and the resulting susceptibility to other pathogens requires further investigation.”

The researchers said the study likely underestimated the true burden of the respiratory viral season because it is limited to laboratory-confirmed respiratory viral infections and failed to capture post-infection complications that are known to occur.

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