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RSV cases see early spike in Idaho, nationwide

St. Luke's Children's Hospital, the only of its kind in Idaho, was at capacity for pediatric patients Sunday. Two children had to be transferred to other facilities.

BOISE, Idaho — The country has seen a nationwide surge in cases of RSV, including here in Idaho.

Babies and children are especially vulnerable to the respiratory virus. 

Data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) shows RSV positivity, and positive cases, have surged in the last three weeks. For MMWR week 46 - which was measured Nov. 20, Idaho had 371 positive RSV tests with a 22.6% positivity rate.

"In previous years, we've seen the percent positivity of RSV tests kind of peak no higher than about 35%, and then they come back down. We're at just a little over 22% positivity right now. I think we can anticipate being somewhere between 30-33% by the time we get in all the test results for this week," Dr. Kathryn Turner, deputy state epidemiologist for Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Division of Public Health said. "That could be our peak, and then it would look like a normal year, just earlier. The peak would be about the same amount. So, right now, most of us are just monitoring to see what we can expect."

St. Luke's Children's Hospital is the only of its kind in the state. On Sunday night, they were at capacity for pediatric patients, so two children had to be transferred to other facilities.

Hospital capacity can change multiple times a day. To meet increased demand, St. Luke's recently opened an outpatient clinic for infants and toddlers with RSV bronchiolitis. 

Primary Health said their RSV numbers are dropping, but they are limiting testing to only kids who have high risk for RSV complications.

So, does RSV pose a risk of being worse than previous years? Turner said not necessarily - however we are seeing an earlier peak than normal.

"So, if if things continue the way they are, I don't expect to see more positive cases this year than we did in in pre-pandemic seasons," Turner said.

RSV is not the only illness that is seeing an increase in cases. Primary Health said they saw over 400 influenza cases last week, and their pediatrics providers continue to see record numbers of sick kids in clinics.

"What we're seeing right now is we're seeing a normal increase in COVID cases, an increase in influenza cases - an early flu season, early RSV season, and it's all happening at once," Turner said. "It's happening during a time when our health care system is really low on capacity, not only because because of these viral illnesses, but because they've have they have staffing constraints, and that's why it's so important to get the message out - that for at least two of those viruses, there's a vaccine, the COVID by bivalent booster, as well as the influenza vaccine."

St. Luke's shared the following message for parents who are looking to help keep their kids healthy this season:

"It’s important for eligible kids to get their annual flu vaccine and that they are up to date on other vaccinations such as the COVID vaccine; and as always, good hand hygiene and staying home when sick are especially important this time of year when we’re inside more often with doors and windows closed. Finally, we would like to encourage everybody to stay home when they are acutely ill, to minimize exposure to others."

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