Minnesota hospitals are under strain this month amid an intense surge in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, otherwise known as RSV.
The latest data from the Minnesota Department of Health show RSV hospitalizations rose sharply in the seven-county metro over the last few weeks, with the vast majority of those hospitalized being children age 1 or younger.
A spokesperson for M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis said pediatric hospitals across the country are experiencing increased patient volumes driven by the steady uptick in RSV and other respiratory illnesses.
"While there may be longer-than-average wait times, patients should not avoid coming to the hospital during an emergency," the spokesperson shared, adding patients can access clinics, urgent care or virtual care for non-emergent health needs.
"The best way to keep our emergency departments and staff available for medical emergencies is to get the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines, practice good hand hygiene, and stay home when sick."
The latest weekly data from MDH showed the RSV positivity rate in the metro area nearing 67%, with a 26% statewide positivity rate.
"We're seeing relatively high rates of infection occur earlier in the fall than usual," said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious diseases physician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Center, in an interview with the Mayo Clinic News Network . "Typically, we don't see a lot of circulation of this virus until November. But this year, we are seeing much more than we generally see."
Symptoms of RSV most commonly appear four to six days after exposure to the virus, according to Mayo Clinic.
The illness typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, dry cough, fever, sore throat, sneezing and headache.
Signs and symptoms of severe RSV infection in infants includes short, shallow and rapid breathing, wheezing, poor feeding and lethargy.
According to Mayo Clinic, having RSV may lower immunity and increase the risk of getting COVID-19, for both kids and adults.