MIAMI – Physicians warn of an increase in cases of respiratory illnesses like the flu, respiratory syncytial virus, and COVID-19 amid a shortage in some medications for children.
The cases increased after Thanksgiving Day and will likely continue to increase during the gatherings in December.
“Any holidays that provide people to be in the same area all together where somebody may be sick, it’ll rip through like wildfire,” said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, the chief medical officer for Broward Health.
Hospitalizations for patients who tested positive for COVID-19 increased by more than 30% in two weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children and seniors with other health problems are most vulnerable.
“What we have seen over the last several weeks is an increase in emergency services because of respiratory illness - mainly RSV, COVID, and influenza. This has taken a toll more so on the pediatric population than the others,” Lenchus said.
The cases have also increased at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami-Dade.
“I think in general we have a lot of respiratory viruses going around,” said Dr. Rodney Baker, the emergency medicine director at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
The increase in respiratory illnesses comes amid shortages of children’s fever reducers such as Tylenol and Motrin and antibiotics like amoxicillin that are on backorder.
“There are alternatives but amoxicillin is truly often the first-line choice for most children,” Baker said.
Children and seniors with other health problems are most vulnerable to severe symptoms. Both Baker and Lenchus recommend the use of face masks and vaccines for influenza, COVID, and RSV.
“I think people have some vaccine fatigue, so folks haven’t gotten their influenza vaccine which is a shame because this one is supposed to be pretty good,” Baker said.
The amoxicillin shortage could continue for several months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Johnson & Johnson announced an increase in the production of Tylenol. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been providing updates on the drug shortages.
Last year, President Joe Biden signed an e an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to identify supply chain risks for pharmaceuticals and their active ingredients and to address those risks.