In an open letter to the Biden administration, pediatricians called to declare an emergency to support a national response to the “alarming surge” of pediatric respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) say that significant capacity issues in pediatric hospitals and communities require “flexibilities” that can only be provided through a formal emergency declaration, as it was done during COVID-19.
Due to unprecedented levels of RSV and growing flu rates, more than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds are full across the country, and many states are reporting more than 90 percent of their pediatric beds are occupied.
“Capacity constraints at children’s hospitals and pediatric offices are resulting in more children being cared for in community and adult hospitals which may have limited or no capacity to care for children,” the letter says.
According to the AAP and CHA, the dual emergency declarations requested would allow waiver of certain Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements so that hospitals, physicians, and other health care providers may share resources in a coordinated effort to care for their community and have access to emergency funding to keep up with the growing demands, specifically related to workforce support.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It takes a week or two for most people to recover, but RSV can cause more severe disease in infants and older adults.
In the US, the RSV cases have been increasing since summer, with over 17,000 RSV tests coming back positive last week alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that this season, there have been at least 2.8 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 1,300 deaths from flu.
While there is no vaccine against RSV, the CDC recommends that everyone ages six months and older get a flu shot annually.