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OHSU forecast projects severe strain on Oregon hospitals due to RSV

Forecast projects RSV hospitalizations, including infants and toddlers, to peak on Nov. 30
OHSU Hospital Emergency Department
Oregon Health & Science University experts forecast a severe strain on Oregon hospitals due to RSV. (OHSU/Christine Torres Hicks)

Oregon hospitals will be under intense strain for the next several weeks managing a wave of critically ill infants and toddlers suffering from the respiratory syncytial virus, according to the latest biweekly statewide forecast from Oregon Health & Science University.

The new forecast projects weekly hospital admissions for adult and pediatric cases of RSV to peak at 129 as of Nov. 30 — well above the 77 admissions statewide for the week ending Wednesday, Nov. 9. Already, hospitals are stretched thin providing specialized care to pediatric patients who have contracted RSV and become critically ill.

Oregon RSV admissions per week

In a joint statement, Portland area hospital leaders on Thursday called on parents and caregivers to practice proven measures to reduce the spread of viral infection right now.

“Because of the high volume of sick young children requiring emergency services at this time, caregivers and families, unfortunately, may experience long wait times in our emergency departments,” they said. “Additionally, appointments for urgent, immediate and primary care may take longer to schedule. Except when emergency care is needed, we urge families and caregivers with concerns to first call their primary care doctor.”

Peter Graven, Ph.D. (OHSU)
Peter Graven, Ph.D. (OHSU)

The new forecast — which expands the ongoing statewide forecast of hospitalizations for COVID-19 — projects that the rate of hospital admissions for RSV in children will peak at approximately 80 hospital admissions at the end of this month, and will begin to decline around the first of December. Hospital admission rates are forecast to remain at or near current levels through the Christmas holiday.

“We do think we’ll see a peak in RSV in the next two to three weeks and then a gradual decline from there following previous seasonal patterns,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics.

Public health emergency

Gov. Kate Brown on Monday declared a public health emergency intended to provide additional flexibility for hospitals to staff beds for children, allow them to draw on a pool of medical volunteer nurses and doctors, and take other steps to care for children.

“Like other hospitals in the region and across the country, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital is currently admitting a high number of sick patients. Illnesses have hit our communities hard — and this comes on top of extreme health care staffing challenges which were exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Dana A. Braner, M.D., Doernbecher physician-in-chief. “We expect this spike in illness to continue in the coming months. The dedicated staff here at Doernbecher are incredible, and they will continue to provide quality, compassionate care for our patients.”

Clinicians across the region have emphasized that the best thing parents can do to keep their children healthy and safe is to practice all the measures that were emphasized during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Avoid contact with those who are sick.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Consider wearing a mask.
  • Stay up to date on all routine vaccinations, including flu shots and COVID-19 boosters.
  • Limit infants’ exposure to frequent visitors and crowds, especially if they are at risk for severe illness and/or younger than 12 weeks of age.

In a glimmer of good news, the new statewide forecast does not project a substantial increase in the number of Oregonians hospitalized with COVID-19.

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