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Children’s Health Ireland: Covid not straining kids’ hospitals

The CEO of Children’s Health Ireland has said that Covid-19 is not putting pressure on Irish children’s hospitals, and that ICU units are instead strained because the government’s lockdown has caused a spike in RSV infections.

The remarks were made over the weekend by CHI chief Eilis Hardiman during an interview on RTÉ Radio 1. Hardiman was speaking about the increasing lack of ICU bed availability in children’s hospitals.

Asked if the pressure was due to “Covid concerns”, Hardiman replied: “We don’t think it’s Covid-related.”

“As you know Covid hasn’t impacted children from that perspective…But we have seen the increases predominantly related to RSV.”

Hardiman went on to assert that, because of the lockdown, children were less exposed to the RSV virus, thus causing more of them to catch it this year.

“Now what’s also maybe Covid-related is this time last year, with children over the winter period, we saw our lowest numbers of RSV across children’s services,” she said.

“Children weren’t exposed to RSV last year because they were in lockdown. So we’re finding that there are more children being infected by RSV for the first time this year, so it’s a little bit of a double-whammy this time.”

She added: “We do know that people are worried and concerned. And obviously we would say you should contact your GP if you have got concerns. And our emergency and urgent care centres are there to help, and obviously to help any families that are concerned and worried about their families from an emergency perspective.”

Ireland has seen a 1,400% increase in RSV since 2019 among Irish children – record highs which are believed to be largely attributable to last years’ lockdown.

RSV is a usually mild virus which affects the lungs and respiratory system. It can be dangerous, however, in the immunocompromised, young children and premature babies, as well as the elderly, as the virus has the potential to develop into bronchiolitis and pneumonia in rare circumstances.

It’s believed that roughly 1 in 50 children who catch RSV need medical care.

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