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Despite lower RSV case count, East TN Children's Hospital says it is reaching capacity

Health experts are also warning that the number of RSV and flu cases may rise over the holidays.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Cases of the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are rising nationally. In East Tennessee, health leaders said the number of new cases has started to drop. However, East Tennessee Children's Hospital said they are still at capacity as they try to treat patients.

"Luckily, we have been busy but able to handle it," said Shannon Cohen, the pediatric hospitalist at ETCH.

RSV mainly affects kids and it commonly brings flu-like symptoms. For some young children though, RSV can be severe and life-threatening.

"We have had instances over the past month where we have had problems with bed space and have had to keep people monitored in the emergency room because we didn't have bed space on the floor," said Cohen. "That has gotten a little better.

Over the last week, ETCH reported they had 54 cases of RSV. Around a month ago, they said they had more than 100 cases. Despite the falling number of cases, the hospital still urges people to be cautious and to be careful if they are exposed to the virus — especially over the holidays.

"It would be best to keep people that are sick away from these group gatherings as much as possible," said Cohen. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote a letter to President Biden about RSV. A portion of the letter is below.

Across the country, more than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds are full, and many states are reporting more than 90 percent of their pediatric beds are occupied. This is mirrored in community settings, where ambulatory pediatric practices are facing tremendous demand and workforce shortages.

Right now, Cohen said that ETCH is able to handle the number of patients with RSV. However, she said that could change if the number of cases surges again. 

"Especially as people get together over the holidays, I likely will see our increase in beds being taken up very soon, probably will come again," she said.

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