RS virus peaks early: children’s wards in Groningen and Drenthe hospitals full. UMCG must cancel operations for little ones

The children’s wards of the hospitals in Groningen and Drenthe are full, resulting in the cancellation of operations. The main reason is the RS virus, which spreads very early.

Not only the children’s wards of the various centers are full; in the UMCG the same applies to the pediatric ICU and the neonatology department. The result of the crowds is that some of the planned operations for children in the UMCG have to be canceled because there is no room in the nursing department. Switching to hospitals in other regions and Germany is difficult, because they suffer from the same problem.

The Ommelander Hospital Groningen, the Martini Hospital, the Wilhelmina Hospital Assen (WZA) and the Treant hospital locations also report large crowds in their children’s departments, with mainly infants and toddlers with serious respiratory infections. Respiratory syncytial virus is the main culprit. Almost every child contracts an RS infection in the first year and a small percentage becomes very short of breath.

Patient exchange

The WZA is nearing its maximum capacity, although there is always room for an acute complicated delivery, a spokesperson said. “We are in daily contact with hospitals in the region to hear how everyone is doing,” says WZA spokeswoman Marijke Greidanus. “We regularly decide to exchange patients. For example, we admit a mother and a newborn baby to our parent and child center and a patient with RS from our area goes to another hospital. Fortunately, consultation solves a lot.”

Busyness in the children’s wards occurs every sniffing season. The RS virus is almost always the culprit. Young babies in particular can become short of breath due to inflammation of the small airways (bronchiolitis) or pneumonia. Worldwide, the virus is the second cause of death among infants, after malaria.

Vaccine is coming

What makes the current peak of RS infections in particular special is its early timing. Last week, according to figures from the RIVM, more than five times as many children under the age of 2 were admitted with RSV bronchiolitis as the same week a year ago. The RS virus is on the rise in more European countries, sees virologist Bert Niesters of the UMCG. “As a rule of thumb you normally use: RS comes with Sinterklaas, influenza with Christmas,” says Niesters. “Now you see again that viruses do not read the books.”

Not only young babies are a risk group for RS; the same goes for the elderly. A vaccine was approved for both groups this year. “This is very good news,” says Niesters. “This will definitely reduce the burden of disease in our hospitals in the coming years.”