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Germany faces ‘catastrophic’ paediatric bed shortage as RSV cases soar


Intensive care doctors in Germany have warned that hospital paediatric units in the country are stretched to breaking point in part due to rising cases of respiratory infections among infants.

The intensive care association DIVI said the seasonal rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases and a shortage of nurses was causing a “catastrophic situation” in hospitals.

RSV is a common, highly contagious virus that infects nearly all babies and toddlers by the age of two, some of whom can fall seriously ill. Experts say the easing of coronavirus pandemic restrictions means RSV is affecting a larger number of babies and children, whose immune systems aren’t primed to fend it off.

Cases of RSV and other respiratory illnesses have also increased in the UK and in the US, which is also suffering from a shortages of antivirals and antibiotics.

In Germany, hospital doctors are having to make difficult decisions about which children to assign to limited intensive care beds. In some cases, children with RSV or other serious conditions are getting transferred to hospitals elsewhere in Germany with spare capacity.

“If the forecasts are right, then things will get significantly more acute in the coming days and week,” Sebastian Brenner, head of the paediatric intensive care unit at University Hospital Dresden, told German news channel n-tv. “We see this in France, for example, and in Switzerland. If that happens, then there will be bottlenecks when it comes to treatment.”

Others warned that, in certain cases, doctors already were unable to provide the urgent care some children need.

“The situation is so precarious that we genuinely have to say children are dying because we can’t treat them any more,” Dr. Michael Sasse, head of paediatric intensive care at Hanover’s MHH University hospital, said.

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Source: The Guardian, 1 December 2022

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