Recognizing the dramatic and sustained increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) straining our health systems, pediatric hospital beds and pediatric health care workforce, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) acknowledges the disproportionate threat to the health and wellbeing of infants and young children that RSV poses. Immature immune systems and anatomically disadvantaged respiratory systems place infants and young children at the highest risk for serious and life-threatening illness from RSV and other respiratory viral illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 2.1 million outpatient visits among children younger than 5 years old and up to 80,000 hospitalizations in that same population each year. Currently, children’s hospitals across the country are experiencing surging hospital admissions due to RSV that far exceed a typical season.
“RSV is a serious respiratory illness that can lead to long-term respiratory concerns such as asthma and decreased lung function,” noted NAPNAP President Jennifer Sonney PhD, APRN, PPCNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN. “It is critical that pediatric providers educate families on prevention and mitigation strategies such as frequent hand washing and cleaning surfaces, covering coughs and avoiding close contact with sick individuals to try to prevent infants and toddlers from contracting RSV and experiencing acute illness and hospitalization.”
The national surge in RSV has resulted in health systems vying for critical resources including hospital beds, ventilators and staff. The unseasonably early arrival and extraordinary spread of RSV this year may be further complicated by expected increases in other viruses, including influenza and COVID-19, and lagging influenza and COVID-19 immunization rates in children.
NAPNAP members provide high quality evidence-based pediatric health care to acute and critically ill children and are vital to addressing the RSV crisis. As valued and trusted providers, PNPs and pediatric-focused APRNs are uniquely positioned to educate parents and caregivers on signs and symptoms of RSV, preventative measures to avoid the spread of RSV and when to seek emergency care for their children suffering acute symptoms.
“As an acute care PNP working in a leading children’s hospital, I have witnessed how RSV has been more pervasive this season and the toll it is taking on families and health care systems,” said NAPNAP Immediate Past President Andrea Kline-Tilford, PhD, CPNP-AC/PC, FAAN.
NAPNAP offers resources on its website to enhance education for patients and families on pediatric immunization to reduce concomitant rises in influenza and COVID-19 cases during this crisis. In the coming months, we plan to introduce additional information and resources related to RSV and potential innovations in preventing this life-threatening disease in infants and young children.
NAPNAP urges all pediatric health care providers to prepare themselves with knowledge and tools to promote timely and complete vaccination for all infants and young children to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases to avoid further strains on pediatric resources. Additionally, promotion of accessible RSV prophylaxis in at-risk eligible infants is essential in mitigating severe illness in this fragile population.
We applaud local, state and federal public health agencies that continue to disseminate evidence-based disease prevention information and facts about recommended vaccines, including influenza and COVID-19, to communities. We urge expanded public health awareness campaigns so families understand how to take preventative measures for their health and safety to avoid emergency department visits and hospitalizations that can easily overwhelm pediatric hospital resources. Although there is not an RSV vaccine available at this time, it’s important that we do everything we can to bolster infants’ and children’s health to avoid hospitalization. Immediate collaborative and strategic action will save the lives of infants and children.
November 16, 2022
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV) For Healthcare Providers – CDC
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV) For Parents/Caregivers – NAPNAP
- Call to Action: Reducing the Burden of RSV Across the Lifespan – NFID
- RSV Surveillance Data – NREVSS – CDC
- Updated Guidance: Use of Palivizumab Prophylaxis to Prevent Hospitalization From Severe Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection During the 2022-2023 RSV Season – AAP
- NAPNAP Position Statement on Access to Care
- NAPNAP Position Statement on Immunizations