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Local hospitals treating fewer children with respiratory illnesses as virus-prevention efforts increase

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 4:05 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Local hospitals like Wesley Children’s hospital in Wichita report seeing fewer young patients with respiratory illness. This comes as hospitals continue to face a challenge with meeting the needs of mostly adult patients who are fighting against COVID-19. Pediatrician Dr. Stephanie Kuhlmann with Wesley Children’s Hospital and KU Wichita Pediatrics believes efforts to limit the spread of the virus, including making, good hygiene, and social distancing, are helping to stop the spread of other diseases, especially among children.

“This time of year, we should be very, very full. Although we do have patients in the hospital, they’re not there for flu,” Dr. Kuhlmann said. “They’re not there for RSV.”

The Center for Disease Control said the common respiratory virus, RSV, often causes bronchitis and pneumonia in young children. An estimated 58,000 children younger than 5 are hospitalized each year due to RSV infections. Currently, RSV numbers are down for this time of year.

“We haven’t had any documented cases of RSV in our hospital this respiratory season or this winter season as of yet,” Dr. Kuhlmann said. “So it makes you wonder what’s going to happen when we do relax COVID efforts or if we relax COVID efforts.

Dr. Kuhlmann elaborated on her belief that efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 are also helping to stop the spread of other diseases.

“Even if you’re not a believer in masks, I’ll tell you that masking works,” she said. “The prime example of it is what we’re seeing in the hospitals where this time last year, we were full of respiratory viruses, RSV, influenza. As soon as the pandemic hit, people started masking, staying at home, distancing, our numbers immediately went down to zero.”

Dr. Kuhlmann hopes people will continue to take precautions to stop the spread of all viruses, from COVID-19 to RSV. With the precautions, she said what’s most important is for people to stay home if they’re feeling ill.

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