The RS virus (respiratory syncytial virus) is spreading so fast in the Netherlands that all the beds in pediatric ICUs were full on Tuesday, according to reports. At least one patient had to be diverted to a hospital in Antwerp. Because there are not enough pediatric beds, several hospitals had to postpone planned operations.
The number of reports of the RS virus in recent weeks has been greater than usual for this time of year, the RIVM confirms after reports by the Nederlands Dagblad. Because there were 21 reports in the second week of June and 37 last week, there is even talk of an epidemic.
Almost all intensive care units for children in the Netherlands are full because of an outbreak of the contagious RS virus. It concerns ninety beds in seven hospitals. So says Hans van Goudoever, pediatrician and head of the Emma Children’s Hospital in Amsterdam and spokesman for the Dutch Association for Pediatrics. “Right now, there is one spot left in Maastricht, and that’s it.” Not all ICU beds are occupied by RS patients. In Amsterdam, it’s about half.
What is the RS virus?
The symptoms of the virus are similar to those of a cold. It can cause severe chest tightness in babies and toddlers due to an inflammation of the small airways or pneumonia. Consequently, the RIVM sees that the number of admissions of children with the virus to hospitals is increasing. In weakened older adults, the virus is often the cause of respiratory tract infections, but it rarely leads to death in the Netherlands in both groups.
The virus normally occurs in the winter, between November and March, and not in the summer. The number of reports at its peak has fluctuated between seventy and two hundred in recent years. Last winter, corona measures prevented the virus from spreading because people had less contact with and kept their distance from others, and schools and nurseries were closed. With the relaxation of the measures, the virus again has a greater chance of spreading. The same picture is seen in other countries.
Infection with the RS virus in children is difficult to prevent, according to the RIVM, but washing hands often and using paper tissues reduces the risk.
RS infected kids are now a bit older
In adults, the RS virus can cause a bad cold. In babies younger than six months, it can cause severe shortness of breath. Van Goudoever thinks it’s odd that the children admitted with the RS virus are a bit older than normal. “Usually, we see children under six months old, but now there is also a child of three in our ICU, for example.”