Multiple children's hospitals in D.C., Maryland, Virginia are at or near capacity Children's National Hospital is among other local children's hospitals are at or near capacity due to increased respiratory virus cases.
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Multiple children's hospitals in D.C., Maryland, Virginia are at or near capacity

Children's National Hospital fluctuates from being at or near capacity hour to hour, according to a spokesperson. Tyrone Turner/WAMU hide caption

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Tyrone Turner/WAMU

Children's National Hospital is among local pediatric hospitals operating at or near capacity due to viral respiratory infections. A spokesperson tells DCist/WAMU that the volume at the hospital is changing hour to hour, but expects to be at or near capacity "into the near future."

Inova's children's hospital in Fairfax and the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore are also strained by these respiratory infections, specifically respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and flu cases, according to the Washington Post. The three hospitals make up more than 650 beds for children's care in the region, according to the Post.

"Johns Hopkins Children's Center is experiencing a surge of patients due to an increase in cases of RSV, as well as other reasons, and many surrounding hospitals are facing the same," Dr. Margaret R. Moon, the hospital's co-director, told DCist/WAMU in an email. "Throughout our hospital, this issue is a top priority for the leadership team, who is carefully managing the increase." Inova did not answer emailed questions about hospital capacity.

RSV causes mild, cold-like symptoms with about a week or two needed for recovery, according to the CDC. However, RSV can cause severe infections like bronchiolitis — inflammation of the small airways in the lung — and pneumonia in infants younger than a year old. Infants at that age and even older adults are at a higher risk and may be hospitalized if they have breathing difficulty or are dehydrated.

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As of October 8, there have been about 4,424 detected cases of RSV nationally, according to the CDC. As for the flu, DC Health has not updated its influenza data since June, but nationally, 1,322 flu patients were admitted to a hospital this week, according to the CDC.

This isn't the first time Children's National has dealt with an increase in pediatric respiratory infections. Last year, the hospital saw a slight rise in flu and RSV cases, at the time due to kids coming out of COVID isolation and being more exposed to other respiratory illnesses. Although the flu has a vaccine, RSV does not. And with a surge in illnesses, national healthcare worker shortages are only exacerbating the limited capacity, according to a statement from Children's National.

"We have implemented measures to accommodate the higher volumes and deliver safe care," Children's National said in a statement. "When a child in our hospital or emergency department is facing a life-threatening emergency, there is no wait time."

However, for any non-urgent issues, families should expect long waits. The hospital expects to remain at near capacity in the near future, and so they recommend families to consider seeing their primary care pediatrician or local urgent care for assistance. They also recommend for children to be up to date on their flu and COVID vaccines.

This post has been updated with comment from Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

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