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Mounting Respiratory Illnesses Lead to School Closures and Hospital Alerts

Mounting Respiratory Illnesses Lead to School Closures | Credits: Getty Images

United States: The health experts and authorities are concerned about the increasing respiratory illnesses across the nation. As per the official reports, both medical facilities and educational establishments has been reporting an escalation in respiratory infection, including influenza, Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus (commonly inducing the common cold), and COVID-19.

Kyle Brewerton, president of the Auckland Primary Principals’ Association and principal of Remuera Intermediate School, attested to the burgeoning prevalence of illness, deeming it “unequivocally escalating” among both scholars and faculty members.

Brewerton delineates a discernible surge in student infirmity, with instances where up to nine faculty members were absent due to sickness on any given day.

“This phenomenon typically manifests itself in the third academic term,” Brewerton asserts.

Naenae College, situated in Lower Hutt, grapples with “elevated rates of infirmity” among its faculty, necessitating the imperative action of dispatching scholars to their residences, as articulated on its social media platform.

Hoon Hay School in Christchurch recently disseminated a notice via Facebook, acknowledging a recent surge in infirmity within its premises, while advocating for parental vigilance and the retention of unwell children at home.

Westland High School in Hokitika has resolved to release students in years 11, 12, and 13 from attendance on Friday. The institution grapples with a “severe onslaught of heightened Covid infirmity,” substantially impeding its capacity to cater to all cohorts.

Perilous Predicament

While Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) often induces mild symptoms akin to the common cold in children and healthy adults, it poses a grave risk to infants, young children, immunocompromised individuals, and elderly adults.

Laura Amy, a mother of two, recounts the harrowing ordeal of witnessing her six-month-old son hospitalized, necessitating oxygen supplementation and enteral feeding due to RSV bronchiolitis.

Amy’s son, Phoenix, now aged one, endured a week-long hospitalization for severe RSV bronchiolitis last November.

Initially, Phoenix exhibited respiratory distress, accompanied by feeding difficulties and fever, prompting his mother’s urgent pursuit of medical intervention. “As a mother, one inherently discerns… the instinctual realization when something is amiss,” reflects the Hawke’s Bay resident.

In New Zealand, RSV stands as the predominant cause of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under two years old, as reported by Healthify.

Phoenix succumbed to secondary pneumonia, necessitating extensive oxygen therapy.

“It was an immensely daunting experience,” Amy recollects.

Dr. Sarah Jefferies, a public health physician at the Institute for Environmental Science and Research (ESR), notes a recent surge in RSV and rhinovirus cases among children under five years old in the Auckland region.

Visual Representation for infected lungs | Credits: Shutterstock

RSV undeniably circulates, precipitating illness among our younger, more susceptible demographic,” affirms Jefferies.

Hospital Encounters

As of Tuesday morning, Auckland and Starship hospitals reported two adults and five children, respectively, testing positive for RSV.

“We are presently witnessing a surge in patients presenting with various respiratory and winter-related maladies at our emergency departments, as anticipated during this seasonal juncture,” elucidates a spokesperson from Health New Zealand Te Toka Tumai Auckland.

“As of 8 am on Tuesday, eleven out of thirty-two pediatric inpatients at Waikato Hospital were confirmed RSV-positive.”

Further, a solitary adult patient tested positive for RSV in the intensive care unit.

Health NZ Capital, Coast, and Hutt Valley also observed a surge in RSV and other respiratory diagnoses in recent weeks.

Although immediate data on admissions was unavailable, a spokesperson confirmed an escalation in positive RSV cases, predominantly among children.

In the Southern District, one individual was hospitalized with RSV at Southland Hospital on Tuesday morning.

Health NZ Capital, Coast, and Hutt Valley vehemently advocate for stringent adherence to hand hygiene, self-isolation in the event of respiratory symptoms, preschool or kindergarten absenteeism for children exhibiting respiratory afflictions, and mandatory mask-wearing on public transportation.

Outlook on Illnesses

ESR monitors hospitalizations for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) across public hospitals in Auckland.

While Auckland’s hospitalization rate remains within the realm of “low activity,” it has surged in the week ending May 26, akin to last year’s figures, as depicted in ESR’s respiratory illness dashboard.

Although flu typically peaks around July, the timing may vary,” acknowledges Jefferies.

Furthermore, a conspicuous surge in COVID-19 cases is observed across various metrics, including wastewater analysis, hospital admissions, and reported cases.

Dr. Sharon Sime of Health New Zealand posits that these indicators portend the onset of another wave of COVID-19.

Jefferies underscores the paramount importance of safeguarding children and vulnerable populations against respiratory infections through proactive measures, including sick-day observance and vaccination.

Influenza vaccines are available for eligible high-risk cohorts, and Jefferies emphasizes the importance of COVID-19 vaccination compliance alongside routine childhood immunizations.

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