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RSV, influenza circulating at high levels in Oregon

A shortage of the antibiotic amoxicillin is adding to the problem of an exceptionally severe seasonal wave of respiratory illnesses, particularly among children.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Gloria Sayler's eight-year-old daughter, Aburee, is battling an illness.

"Very fatigued and tired," Sayler said. "Fever and congestion, horrid cough, it's really deep in the lungs."

According to Sayler, the symptoms first appeared two weeks ago. Aburee's been in and out of doctor's offices and even the emergency room, but Sayler said there is no clear-cut diagnosis. It's unclear whether it may be respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or influenza. Aubree has missed five days of school in the past two-and-a-half weeks.

"All she wants is to be held and she cries because all she wants to do is cuddle," Sayler said. "She's up all hours because of the cough."

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RSV is a virus that typically causes cold-like symptoms in most children and adults, which allows its spread to sometimes slip under the radar as some people may assume it’s just a cold. It can cause severe illness in vulnerable populations, like young kids.  

On Monday afternoon, Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order to help hospitals deal with the influx of pediatric patients from rising RSV cases in Oregon. The order will allow hospitals to staff extra beds for kids and bring in volunteer nurses and doctors. 

Since late October, when the state started to see rising RSV cases, the pediatric hospitalization rate has more than tripled, according to the governor's office. 

"Every respiratory season is a bad respiratory season," the Oregon Health Authority's Dr. Tom Jeanne said.

Jeanne expects RSV and influenza to circulate this winter season at higher levels than the last two years.

"We don't know yet if this RSV or influenza season will be more severe in Oregon than pre-pandemic seasons, but nationally we're seeing alarming trends of early and very high circulation of both of those viruses," Jeanne said.

RELATED: COVID-19, flu and RSV cases projected to rise during winter season, Oregon health leaders warn

To prevent RSV and other illnesses, the best steps experts recommend is to cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands thoroughly and frequently, mask indoors if you are sick and keep your child at home when they're sick. 

Making matters worse is a shortage of Amoxicillin, the most commonly used antibiotic. KGW heard from parents who have had to call pharmacy after pharmacy just to get their hands on some.

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