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Respiratory virus numbers and severity increasing at Children's Hospital

Respiratory virus concerns

Winnipeg’s Children’s Hospital is beginning to see a spike in respiratory viruses, as well as an increase in the severity of these cases.

According to Dr. Karen Gripp, medical director of the HSC Children’s Hospital emergency department, the hospital is currently averaging about 130 patients every day.

She said they are seeing patients with influenza, RSV, COVID-19, along with several other viruses.

“Most kids do relatively well with these viruses. Some do get very sick,” she said in an interview on Friday.

“So we’re seeing a spike in acuity as well and a need for support.”

Gripp said the current numbers are comparable to November 2019, which was a difficult winter for the Children’s Hospital. She added that by the end of December 2019, they were seeing more than 200 patients a day.

Though 130 patients is an improvement from last year when the hospital was seeing 170 patients a day, the concern stems from the fact that the children are experiencing more severe illness.

“There is some concern that of the 130, we are seeing the sicker patients, and what does that mean,” Gripp said.

“It’s one thing to have a number of 130 when half of those patients or 40 per cent of those patients are relatively mild. What we’re seeing is a lower percentage of mild and a higher percentage of more severe patients.”

As for what’s causing the uptick, Gripp said it’s several factors including children returning to school, as well as spending more time inside due to the cold weather.

“It’s not the temperature outside that’s the issue, it’s the fact that it drives us inside where we’re in closer quarters with each other,” she said.


To limit the spread of these viruses, Gripp offers the following advice:

  • Practising good hygiene, including handwashing;
  • Sneezing into your elbow;
  • Staying home when you’re not feeling well; and
  • Monitoring your symptoms and knowing when you may need to see a doctor.

Gripp added that it’s also important for everyone to get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19.

“That’s true for everyone. That’s not just for children, that’s not just for adults. It’s not just for patients who have underlying medical conditions,” she said.

“Anything that we can do to prevent getting sick will help us, but will also help other people around us.” Top Stories

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