Respiratory illnesses continue to impact hospital systems and clinics

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association said in a press release it could put a strain on hospital systems.
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 1:47 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Data from Virginia Hospitals and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said the commonwealth is facing a particularly challenging respiratory illness season.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) said in a press release present illness trends could put a strain on hospital systems if it continues.

According to a press release from VHHA, emergency department and urgent care clinic visits involving patient diagnoses of RSV have quadrupled since early September and remain significantly elevated.

Visits for flu-like illness are also rising – for the week ending November 5, such visits are at least four times higher than in the same week for each of the past four years. In Virginia, we have seen a 41 percent increase in flu-like illness and an overall 18 percent increase in respiratory illness from the week prior.

Virginia Immunization Information System data from July 1-Nov. 9, 2022 indicates that flu vaccination uptake in children younger than 12 is lower this year as compared to the same time periods during the previous three years.

Virginia hospitals continue to treat about 470 patients every day, according to VHHA.

Julian Walker, vice president of communications for VHHA, said there are a number of reasons these trends are occurring.

“We are coming off a pandemic period where there was more remote educational instruction,” said Walker. “People weren’t as together in group settings. Particularly for younger children who might have been exposed to these respiratory viruses earlier on and therefore might have developed a little bit more immunity to them or had already gone through the process.”

Walker said there are pediatric and pediatric intensive care beds available, but there are fewer beds in rotation right now.

“There’s still capacity to treat patients, whether they’re adults or children, but certainly the fact that you have more children getting sick, whether they’re going to the family physician or the urgent care center, or they’re ending up in the hospital if they’re really sick, all of these factors together are presenting a complicating challenge for health care providers in Virginia,” said Walker.

Anytime there’s an influx or surge of patients like this, Walker said there is bound to be a strain on hospital resources.

“Whether we’re talking about beds that are open versus occupied, whether we’re talking about supplies and resources or whether we’re talking about staffing, manpower. all of these things are factors that have to be considered, especially when you’re dealing with a rush or an influx of patients.”

VHHA launched a website, On Board Virginia, in October to aid in the recruitment and retention of health care professionals in the commonwealth.