RSV, Flu and COVID Force New Levels of Preparedness

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By Go Healthcare Staffing

November 2, 2022

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Hospitals Facing Triple Threat

Go Healthcare Staffing provided this article.

RSV, flu season, and Covid-19 force new levels of preparedness.

While we have been accustomed to hearing about a bad flu season and are still grappling with new coronavirus strains, you might not be aware that RSV—a respiratory illness—is also sweeping across many areas. RSV infects adults but is particularly dangerous for babies and young children. This concentrated uptick in RSV cases, alongside an active flu season, is pushing many hospitals to capacity.

Ramped up preparedness

“The collision of these three illnesses is requiring hospitals and our healthcare system to ramp up preparedness. Cyclical and crisis demand for registered nurses is always top of mind for administrators. This is also where we see the travel nurse industry rise to the challenge and fill the gaps to protect patients and save lives,” explains Randy Holloran, President of Go Healthcare Staffing, Inc.

Experts warn that facilities brace for what some are calling a tripledemic. “You’ve got this waning Covid immunity, coinciding with the impact of the flu coming along here, and RSV,” said Andrew Read, an evolutionary microbiologist at Penn State University. “We’re in uncharted territory here.” Most Covid, Flu, and RSV cases are likely to be unremarkable, but this trifecta of infection may sicken millions and burden hospital staff.

Fall Surge of Respiratory Viruses

According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, the fall surge of respiratory viruses among children has resulted in full beds at about three-quarters of pediatric hospitals nationwide. This has created a unique challenge; children’s hospitals are fielding a constant stream of transfer requests from hospitals without specialized pediatric care. The spike has caught facilities a bit off guard because cases of RSV and other respiratory viruses typically peak in winter. RSV cases this year started climbing in the summer, with the weekly number of positive tests up more than fivefold from mid-August to mid-October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While hospitals plan for the anticipated flu season, they are immediately challenged by the skyrocketing cases of RSV flooding the emergency rooms.  Some are seeing an increase in E.R. activity of 150%. Particularly alarming for babies, RSV often presents as the common cold but can develop into severe cases that lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis, requiring supplemental oxygen or ventilators to help patients breathe.

Immune Systems are Providing Less Protection

Doctors cite social distancing and masking among children during the pandemic as one reason their immune systems provide less protection. This significant reduction in exposure to new pathogens inhibited the system from building natural immunity. Add the waning immunity to Covid with this lack of exposure to other viruses, combined with indoor gatherings, and you have the potential for a “perfect storm.”

With the many lessons learned from the pandemic, facilities are responding swiftly to this triple threat. Hospitals want to protect the well-being of their staff, including nurses who are often asked to carry a large patient load and work long hours. Administrators can quickly turn to travel nurses to help temporarily augment their staff without the complex permanent hire process. The travel nurse industry has seen double-digit growth in recent years due to a shortage of nurses nationwide. Travel staffing firms were a key resource during the height of the pandemic. And they continuously send travel nurses to other crisis situations, such as areas experiencing hurricanes or other natural disasters. “Nurses have an extremely demanding job and are remarkably resilient. We expect that travel nurses will again be called to the frontlines to help with this triple threat facing our communities,” concludes Holloran.

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