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Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV), Has Been Reaching Unprecedented Levels In Hospitals Nationwide At Nearly 7x The Weekly Rate Pre-Covid According To The CDC, Buffalo’s Oishei Children’s Hospital Has Seen Over Double the RSV Already Compared To Last Year’s Entire Season

RSV Can Be Serious For Young Children And The Elderly – A Record-breaking 1,000 RSV Cases While Serious Flu Cases Also Doubled At Oshei Children’s Hospital 

Senator Says Feds Need A Comprehensive Plan To Address RSV and Be Ready to Send in Federal Support the Moment It’s Needed 

Schumer: RSV Is On The Rise, And Feds Need To Step Up To Help Upstate Hospital 

Standing at Wyoming County Community Hospital (WCCH) as Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV) cases surge in children across Western New York, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched a major new push to increase federal support for Upstate hospitals strained by the dramatic increase in RSV cases. Flanked by pediatricians on the frontlines, Schumer explained that this is the busiest RSV season that hospitals like WCCH and Kaleida’s Oishei Children’s Hospital which serves Wyoming County has ever seen, with more than double the number of admissions this year compared to the entirety of last season.   Wyoming County Community Health System reported 54 new cases of RSV alone in just the first two weeks of November with 115 pediatric RSV cases so far this year while pediatric COVID cases are up 75% this year and pediatric influenza cases have gone from just 3 last year to 24 so far this year. Oishei has seen over 1000 pediatric RSV admissions this fall - more than double the number of admissions that they typically see over the entire 6-month season from this time last year.  Schumer said the spiking levels of RSV with growing flu rates warrants immediately federal action, and called for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to be ready to act at a moment’s notice to provide whatever support upstate hospitals need. Schumer reported that the federal government has unique authority to help, with the power to support temporary structures, surge staffing if there are not enough pediatricians available, moving patients across states lines, credentialing out of state providers, enhancing the use of telehealth, coordinating medical supply chains and more. 

“Western New York hospitals are facing an unprecedented surge in RSV cases among children, and public health experts all say it is only going to get worse as we enter the cold winter months. Normally, RSV cases start to grow in October and November before peaking in December and January. It is outright scary given that hospitals are already struggling to keep up, and it’s possible the worst is yet to come. As a grandfather to two young children, there is nothing more terrifying than the thought of them getting sick, and all across the Western New York parents are facing hospitals who are pushed to the brink, with increased wait times, full beds, all while their child is struggling to breathe because of RSV,” said Senator Schumer. “Hospitals are doing their best on the frontlines, but the feds need to step up with a comprehensive plan to respond to this major spike and be ready for it to get worse. The feds have a unique ability to get more doctors and supplies where it’s needed, and they need to be prepared to do so. Nobody really knows what will come next, and if an Upstate hospital says they need something, the feds need to be able to say ‘help is on the way right now.’ Hospitals cannot afford to wait.”

David Kobis, CEO of Wyoming County Community Health System said, “Like hospitals across our region facing the current surge of multiple respiratory viruses amid capacity constraints, Wyoming County Community Health System is seeing more patients with RSV, influenza and Covid-19 compared to last year.  We continue to focus our efforts on delivering the highest quality care right here when our patients need us while also collaborating closely with other hospitals and family physicians across the region.  We appreciate Senator Schumer’s support for our work and recognition of the need to leverage additional resources to address these challenges.”

Dr. Michael Mineo, Chief Medical Officer Kaleida Health said, “We are experiencing a historic respiratory infection season, especially at Oishei Children’s Hospital. Over 1000 children have been admitted with RSV already compared to an average of 300 all winter the past few years. There has been a sliver of hope recently with weekly RSV admissions decreasing from 150/week to 90 a week.  Any reprieve, however, is short lived because we have seen an increase in 50 admissions a week of influenza. The results are problematic as Children’s and its intensive care unit is over 100% capacity. As a community, we all really need to do our part to get vaccinated, staying home and masking when not feeling well.”

Specifically, Schumer said that he is calling for HHS to be ready and, if requested by hospitals, use its unique authority to help. Tools at HHS’ disposal includes the power to support temporary structures like screening tents, surge staffing if there are not enough pediatricians available, moving patients across states lines, credentialing out of state providers, enhancing the use of telehealth, coordinating medical supply chains and more.  

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Schumer said that while most adults recover in a week or two, RSV can be very serious, especially for young children and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States. 

Last week, the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics warned of “unprecedented levels” of RSV combined with increasing flu circulation are pushing many hospitals to the breaking point. At nearby Oishei Children's Hospital in Buffalo, 70% of the patients with flu-like symptoms test positive for RSV. The hospital has seen over 1000 pediatric RSV admissions this fall - more than double the number of admissions that they typically see over the entire 6-month season from this time last year. Schumer explained that the hospital sees 400 cases a year, and as of December, they have seen over 1,000 admissions. Schumer stated that this rapid increase in cases has caused the hospital to create 5 new overflow areas, which they continue to use to this day, straining the hospitals capacity. This major strain also comes as flu cases also are spiking across New York State, placing further strain on the health system. At Oishei, in just the four weeks between October 24th and November 20th, they’ve seen 1171 pediatric ED and admitted patients testing positive for flu which is an over 800% increase over the same time last year in which only 132 tested positive.  For Flu, in just 5 weeks they’ve had nearly a 200% increase in the number of hospital admissions that they typically see over the entire six-month flu season.  In a typical flu season (Nov – April) usually 70 – 90 children are admitted with the flu. Over the last 5 weeks Oishei has already admitted 140 children. 

Infants 6 months and younger are getting hospitalized with RSV at more than seven times the weekly rate observed before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Schumer was joined by local health and elected officials including David Kobis, CEO of Wyoming County Community Health System, Dr. Michael Mineo, Chief Medical Officer for Kaleida Health that includes Oishei Children’s Hospital, and Rebecca Ryan, Chair Wyoming County Board of Supervisors.