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Flu, RSV increasing in children in ENC

(Photo: CarolinaEast Medical Center)
CarolinaEast Medical Center Pediatrician Dr. Michael Sullivan said influenza and RSV are currently spreading among children in eastern North Carolina.

Pediatricians across the U.S. and in parts of the state are telling parents to watch their children closely for signs of respiratory illness other than COVID-19.

CarolinaEast Medical Center Pediatrician Dr. Michael Sullivan said influenza is currently spreading in eastern North Carolina.

“Multiple cases coming into the clinic a day,” he said, “And I have personally seen kids from Havelock and Pamlico and New Bern and Kinston all with influenza.”

He said the flu is circulating a little earlier than usual this year.

Influenza numbers were low for the last two seasons, likely because of precautions like social distancing and wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic. Now that most of those measures have been dropped, respiratory illnesses like the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are back.

“School started back up, there was a reduction in mask-wear mandates for a lot of schools. So, it was a little bit of a perfect storm for maybe a little bit of an earlier rise than normal for these respiratory infections,” he said.

RSV, he said, is an illness he said can be worrisome for the tiniest patients.

“A little bit more concerning for the kids probably under one or, even worse, under three months,” he explained, “When they get RSV, because it does cause inflammation in the lungs and their airways are so much smaller, they have a greater impact to the respiratory system when it happens.”

The symptoms, he said, can be tough to watch.

“They have a hard time moving air in and out, they’ll breathe fast, they’ll having kind of this belly breathing – where the stomach is distending and rocking back and forth,” Sullivan said, “They’ll be wheezing significantly and they really just won’t want to eat.”

So, how do you know when to seek treatment?

“Any infant under the age of two months with a fever, really need to talk to the pediatrician, go to an urgent care or seek and E.R. visit with any fever,” Dr, Sullivan said.

He added that if the baby is taking in significantly less formula or breast milk and stop making wet diapers – they should have a good, wet diaper every eight hours, so at least three per day – those are also signs that the baby should be taken to the doctor.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. She has been involved in the media industry in eastern North Carolina for more than three years. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to ENC to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of toddler and baby cuddling, reading, designing costumes for children’s theater and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to westona@cravencc.edu.