LUBBOCK, Texas – University Medical Center and Covenant Children’s hospitals are preparing for what has been referred to as a “tripledemic,” with an increase of Flu, COVID-19 and Respiratory Syncytial Virus cases.

Pediatric health professionals have grown increasingly concerned due to the decrease in Flu vaccinations, the multiple variants of COVID-19 and most importantly the rising number of RSV cases.

RSV is an illness that can pose a huge risk for infants because it can cause severe breathing problems.

“To see [the rising number of RSV cases], this early… that makes us concerned that it is going to be a very difficult winter, and this is a very early time period for RSV,” said Dr. Brian Payne, Chief Medical Officer at UMC’s Children’s hospital.

“We believe that RSV is hitting the children much more this year because the last two years we’ve had this lockdown related to COVID and so now they’re getting more exposure and they have less immunity because they weren’t previously exposed to it,” said Shannon Bates, Chief Nursing Officer at Covenant Children’s Hospital. 

Bates said RSV can appear like a common cold. “The runny nose, the cough, when we start getting concerned is when kids start having trouble breathing,” said Bates. 

Bates also said they have been treating several patients from surrounding hospitals due to an increase of cases in their areas.

“We’ve received patients from McKinney and Oklahoma this week just to try and offset them being on diversion because they’re at capacity because of this RSV surge.”

UMC has also seen an increase in RSV cases from outside of the city.

“Many of the hospitals are being filled up and in fact, our own hospital has been filled up to capacity multiple times last month, we’ve even been requested to receive transfers from long distance all the way across the state,” said Dr. Payne. “I think Houston, just last night, we had a request because they were out of beds in that area for children,”

The virus can be contagious for three to eight days, with the possibility of infants and individuals with weakened immune systems spreading the virus for up to four weeks.

“RSV in adults is just a common cold but in kids, it can cause pneumonia, bronchitis, it can make them critically ill. So it’s really affecting our kids this year,” said Bates. 

And while cases are on the rise, hospitals here are more than prepared to handle the demand.

“We have already put into place a capacity management plan where we are working to increase staff so we can function at full capacity and we really strive to have all of the equipment that we’ve needed,” said Bates. “We’ve already started obtaining more respiratory equipment so we can serve this increased rise that we’ve seen.”

To decrease the surge, doctors have recommended that families social distance and wear their masks. They also urge families to stay up to date on their vaccines and to keep children home from schools and daycares if they show any signs of illness.