FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A surge in respiratory illnesses among children is beginning to put a strain on hospitals nationwide and in the Central Valley.

At Valley Children’s Hospital, pediatricians are seeing a sudden and dramatic uptick in cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

RSV usually causes mild cold-like symptoms. Infants and older adults may develop severe infections because their lungs are weakened.

“This year we’re starting to see an increase a little sooner, which is a little abnormal,” says Dr. Whitney Kalin, a pediatrician with Valley Children’s.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 75% of the country’s estimated 40,000 pediatric hospital beds are now full.

Dr. Whitney Kalin says babies born during the pandemic are more at risk for respiratory illness because they weren’t able to develop immunity to different viruses.

“So a lot of kids weren’t out and about weren’t exposed to this kind of illness, so they’re all getting it kind of all at once,” says Dr. Kalin.

RSV cases typically surge from December to February, but this month, Valley Children’s has more RSV cases than any other respiratory illness, including COVID-19.

While symptoms are usually not serious, infants younger than 6 months of age and older adults may need to be hospitalized if they have trouble breathing or are dehydrated. In most severe cases, a person may require oxygen.

Though there are no vaccines for RSV, everyone can take simple preventative steps.

“Simple common things like wearing a mask while you’re sick, and especially washing your hands are still the number one things you can do to help prevent the spread of this and other illnesses,” says Dr. Kalin.