LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – In the wake of the negative impacts of the COVID-19 shutdown, there appears to be a rise in a certain illness among children who were isolated during the pandemic.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, has been a sickness that is requiring more and more hospital beds across Michigan as children who were kept at home in their early years and not socialized are catching as they encounter more of the world. Doctors say that the lack of exposure to common viruses during the early stages of the pandemic has left young children more vulnerable to severe infections as schools and daycares are open for business again.
Childrens’ immune systems begin to mature in early childhood, and a lack of exposure to different viruses can lead to a weaker antiviral response to harsher infections such as RSV.
“Early in life our immune system gets trained, so to speak, so that we respond the right way,” Professor of Pathology at the University of Michigan and RSV immunologist and researcher Nick Lukacs said, “A whole cohort of kids were never exposed to RSV and now they’re back in daycare and school. And … RSV’s a very infectious virus, and so they’re all getting exposed to it. They’re all getting infected, and (some) of them may have an immune system that isn’t responding in the right way.”
Michigan hospitals have been treating hundreds of young patients as more and more schools finally open fully after the shutdown.
The Detroit News reported as of Wednesday, the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has treated 283 pediatric patients for RSV this year. The Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, operated by Corewell Health West, currently holds 76 patients infected by RSV and treated 315 emergency and inpatient RSV cases in the last week. Corewell Health East – formerly Beaumont Health – treated 520 children for RSV during the week of Nov. 7, down from 577 the previous week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that RSV causes only respiratory illness and cold-like symptoms in adults, but young children experience it more severely. Pre-pandemic studies have found that the RSV effects can last far longer than adolescence but can lead to “respiratory morbidity characterized by transient early wheezing and recurrent wheezing and asthma within the first decade of life and possibly into adolescence and adulthood”
In addition to the body’s immature response to illness, many children also struggle to respond to by-products of RSV such as mucus production. Chief of Emergency Center at Corewell Health Beaumont Troy Hospital David Donaldson recognizes that young children struggle to respond to mucus production as many do not learn to blow their noses until age 2. As a result, hospitalized children with RSV usually undergo nasal suctioning to clear mucus from their noses.