Nova Scotia

IWK says busy ER due to rhinovirus and RSV among kids spared in past years

Dr. Andrew Lynk said a normal busy day would see 100 to 120 emergency room visitors, but that's up to 140 to 150 now.

Dr. Andrew Lynk says 140 to 150 kids visiting ER each day at Halifax children's hospital

Andrew Lynk is the chief of pediatrics at the IWK Health Centre and an associate professor at Dalhousie University. (CBC)

The IWK Health Centre in Halifax is seeing an increase in children admitted for non-COVID-19 breathing problems, the chief of pediatrics said Monday. 

Dr. Andrew Lynk said a normal busy day would see 100 to 120 emergency room visitors, but that's up to 140 to 150 now. 

"Probably one in 12 families are leaving because the wait times are so long," he said. 

He said "very few" young patients over the last eight months have been admitted for COVID-19. 

"Right now we are very busy admitting children with respiratory infections causing asthma, or croup, or bronchiolitis," he said. 

He said many of the cases are rhinovirus or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among very young kids. 

RSV infects the lungs and respiratory tract. It can result in severe infection in some people, including babies under two and older adults with pre-existing conditions. 

But for most people, RSV leads to cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, cough and fever. It's the most common cause of lower respiratory tract illness in young children worldwide, and typically leads to outbreaks in Canada from late fall to early spring. 

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"That's the major infection now across Canada that's causing various pediatric emergency rooms and hospitals across Canada to get really full and very busy. It's just coming to us now," Lynk said. 

He said the fall return to school always brings viral infections, but the pandemic measures may have delayed some kids from getting RSV. 

"A lot of kids who were one and two [years old] in the last year or two have not seen it yet, so we're not only going to get the one-year-olds getting sick, but maybe the two- and three-year-olds, because they haven't seen RSV before."

He expects influenza cases to rise, too, over the next few months. 

He urged people to help reduce the burden by getting a flu shot and organizing one for their children, especially those younger than five. 

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