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A Surge Of Pediatric Respiratory Illnesses Are Overwhelming North Texas Hospitals

Statewide 88% of pediatric hospital beds are currently occupied
Photo: Drazen Zigic | Shutterstock

As previously covered by Local Profile, North Texas hospitals are seeing an unexpected influx of pediatric flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases. By mid-October, Cook Children’s in Fort Worth was working at max capacity. On Monday, the facility reported that staff saw 564 patients in 24 hours. 

In DFW, as reported by WFAA, normally, the RSV raise in cases starts in December, but this year the spike began early in August. On October 28, a report by the Texas Hospital Association showed that 88% of pediatric hospital beds were occupied due to this season’s rapid spread of RSV and influenza.

In North Texas, that number sits at 95%. According to Stephen Love, president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council, via NBCDFW, the difference with the state average is because metro areas see an influx of patients from rural and outer-lying counties with fewer resources.

While these numbers are alarming, Love said that most of this surge comes from emergency departments where patients with mild symptoms are treated as outpatients and sent home, instead of being hospitalized. “It doesn't mean that all of those will be admitted in become an inpatient,” Love told NBCDFW.

The Texas Hospital Association is urging the public to avoid emergency visits for non-emergency medical conditions like mild symptoms and routine testings, as right now wait times and patient volumes are increasing and emergency departments are being overwhelmed. To make matter worse, continuous staff shortages are further complicating the overflow of hospital visits.

“Our capacity to provide emergency care must be protected for those who need us most,” said ohn Hawkins, President/CEO of the Texas Hospital Association in a statement.

The association shared a list of do’s and don’ts for parents on how to handle this surge of respiratory illness:

  • DON’T: Seek hospital emergency care for non-emergency medical conditions, such as mild symptoms and routine testing.
  • DO: Contact your healthcare provider for guidance as warranted.
  • DO: Seek hospital emergency care if symptoms are worrisome and emergency care is needed. Emergency medical conditions can include difficulty breathing, dehydration and worsening symptoms.
  • DO: Get vaccinated against the flu, if eligible. Visit find flu vaccines at to search for flu vaccine availability.
  • DO: Be patient if seeking care through a hospital emergency department. Consider that wait times may be elevated as respiratory illnesses reach seasonal peak levels.