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'Highest surge I've seen since H1N1 in 2009:' RSV cases in children rapidly rising

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A surge in respiratory viruses in children is putting strain on an already burdened system, as hospitals in York Region and Simcoe County report a rapid rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

"It's probably the highest surge I've seen since H1N1 in 2009 of the influenza outbreak," said Dr. Sarah Barker, Soldiers' Memorial Hospital pediatrician.

Currently, Orillia's Soldiers' Memorial Hospital capacity is running up to 150 per cent, adding to a load many hospitals are already struggling to bare.

"At times, we've actually had to put kids on our obstetrical ward because we only have so much physical space," said Barker.

"We're collaborating daily with RVH pediatrics service so children in our region, which ranges from Parry Sound to Midland to Collingwood to Huntsville, can get a bed when they need it. Both of us have been working at most of the time greater than 100 per cent capacity."

The situation is overwhelming with the triple threat of RSV, COVID-19 and the flu.

In response, Southlake Regional Health Centre has increased its staffing and bed capacity.

"Our numbers are up both in admissions for viruses in general and RSV specifically," said Dr. Charmaine Van Schaik, pediatrician and Chief of Staff at Southlake Regional Health Centre.

With people no longer masking and public health measures lifted, doctors say children are exposed to many viruses.

"We are seeing it with greater intensity this time not just in the numbers but in the degree of unwellness of the children," said Van Schaik.

RSV typically causes cold-like symptoms, including runny nose, sneezing, cough and fever, but can be severe for younger children and those with pre-existing conditions.

"In little babies, especially premature ones, they can get much sicker if infected by this virus," said Dr. Vincent Ho, neonatologist and pediatrician at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie.

"Maybe your child doesn't have high-risk factors but could easily come in contact with one who does, so it's important we keep that in mind as we move forward," Ho added.

While most kids with RSV won't need hospital care, doctors say there are signs parents can watch for, like difficulty breathing.

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