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Children have difficulty breathing when they have an illness. Photo / 123RF:

For RNZ by Rowan Quinn

Wellington Hospital has more than 20 children in its pediatric ward, many on oxygen, as the spread of the potentially deadly RSV virus intensifies.

There is a warning that a flu-like illness has yet to reach its peak. Hospitals across the country were flooded with a sudden increase in cases.

Andrew Marshall, clinical director of the Wellington Hospital Children’s Health Service, said there was an entire ward dedicated to children with the virus, many of whom were very ill.

“They breathe very fast, they find it difficult to breathe, it is very touching, very coughing,” he said.

“They can not breastfeed because they are too short of breath.”

He says that many had to feed their milk through the nasal passages, many were on oxygen.

Although preschoolers were also affected by the disease, it was the children who were most likely to be affected; in the most severe cases, the virus could be fatal.

“It is, of course, a very serious disease. “As you can imagine, it seems horrible to see a child coughing, coughing, a child who can not breathe, it is very sad for the parents,” said Marshall.

The department has been full for the past two weeks, he said.

This was the situation in most of the rest of the country. The virus has spread to already busy units of infants and toddlers.

Christchurch Hospital had an average of 56 newborns in its neonatal intensive care unit, well above the planned 44.

Clare Dussie, the child’s health director, said the hospital was sometimes very tense, with staff taking extra shifts to help.

In Oakland, Midlmore և Starship Hospital struggled to get enough beds or an ambulance area, while a source at Waitākere Hospital said there were queues at the emergency department door.

Marshall said this winter’s wave was probably because there was very little RSV last winter.

This meant that more children did not have immunity this year when they first caught it.

The disease often spread during day care when children brought it home to their vulnerable newborn siblings.

Like Covid-19, simple precautions such as social distance, hand washing and keeping sick children away from day care can help limit the spread, he says.

He expressed hope that the upcoming school holidays will help slow down the virus in the community.



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