RSV cases soar across Washington, hospitals inundated

Respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, continues to be a present and growing threat in Washington. Children’s hospitals across the Puget Sound are seeing unprecedented volumes of patients.

One of the greatest strains is at Seattle Children’s Hospital. A spokesperson tells KIRO 7, “As we enter November, Seattle Children’s Emergency Department (ED) continues to see pediatric volumes holding steady at 200% with a peak of 300%. Approximately 50% of the patients we are seeing are coming to us with some type of respiratory concern. Most recently, the ED has jumped to nearly 250% most evenings and we are anticipating this to increase over the next several months.”

Dr. Kanwar Thind with UW Medicine has seen the influx first hand.

“There’s a lot of just backlog of patients that need to be seen that need higher levels of care, but we just don’t have the beds available for them,” says Thind.

He says to compensate, pediatric hospitals like Seattle Children’s have converted storage rooms into hospital suites, and have even treated patients in hallways.

“We’ve just have to get more creative about it,” says Thind.

In three weeks, Washington State Department of Health reports that RSV numbers more than tripled. The King County Health Department recorded 512 RSV cases, indicating an unprecedented spike.

However, the extent of the spike’s severity is somewhat unknown, as doctors don’t always test for RSV. It’s a virus with similar symptoms to the common cold and COVID-19. Additionally, hospitals aren’t required to release RSV case numbers to the health department.

The biggest indicator of a spike is hospital intake. Like, Seattle Children’s, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma has also experienced overcrowding in recent months.

Local parents, like Jay Tkachuk, describe how his daughter waited hours to be seen in the ER.

“She spent the day in there. So it was it was crowded. The doctors also mentioned that this is Seattle Children’s Hospital that that it’s full again, and it’s full with mostly RSV children,” says Tkachuk.

One of the emergency department doctors wrote on Twitter, “I’ve  — never — seen it like this in my whole career.”

The virus is highly contagious and has no vaccine, which Thind says is one reason for the influx of patients. He says despite the strain on resources, doctors are still ready to provide care.

“Ít is the job that we came here to do. We love taking care of these kids,” says Thind.