Pediatric units at hospital in La Crosse filling with children battling RSV

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, cases are on the rise nationally, and Western Wisconsin is no exception.

The pediatric units at Gundersen Health System are nearly full of kids battling the virus.

Dr. Nicole Hennessy, a pediatric hospitalist, says they’re seeing cases of RSV in older kids.

The virus usually affects one- and two-year-olds, but Gundersen is seeing three-year-olds hospitalized.

According to Dr. Hennessy, every pediatric intensive care unit in the state of Wisconsin is on diversion right now because they’re full of patients. Gundersen is not on diversion and continues to get calls from health systems in Illinois, Iowa, and other Wisconsin hospitals asking if it has room for patients.

Dr. Hennessy says it could be an after-effect of pandemic precautions.

“Children are back in daycare and schools, so they’re getting exposed to things that they haven’t been yet,” said Dr. Hennessy. “Those older kids, those three-year-olds and such, they really just haven’t been exposed to anything, so their immune system is a little more immature than we’d expect it to be.”

Dr. Hennessy says RSV affects adults a lot less because we have larger airways and have been exposed to the virus previously.

But, adults can pass RSV on to younger kids and cause severe illness. The virus can be spread by close contact and by respiratory droplets.

According to Dr. Hennessy, the best way to help is by going back to the basics. Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Stay home if you have any symptoms of illness. If you do have to leave your home, wear a mask in public.