The unsuspecting Jackson family from Middletown, Ohio, returned from a vacation at Walt Disney World in early September. They had no idea about the series of fevers, tests, and doctor’s appointments in store for them. Their 2-year-old son, Wilder, tested positive for the flu when they arrived home but he soon recovered, and his parents thought that was the end of that. However, Wilder kept developing fevers, on and off for about six weeks. Later, doctors diagnosed Wilder with three viruses afflicting him all at once.
Toddler Diagnosed With Three Viruses
As Wilder suffered through recurring fevers during those six weeks, his parents took him to the ER at Cincinnati Children’s when his temperature spiked to 103 degrees. However, his mother, Ciara, said they were told “it’s just a virus” and dismissed. “They took his temperature twice and then sent us home — because his fever had broken — because we had given them Tylenol,” she added. 
But two days later, his fever reached 105 accompanied by fever dreams. “He started actually hallucinating,” Ciara said. “Thinking he was outside. We were inside on the couch, and he was saying, ‘I want to go inside. I need to get away from the dinosaur.’” She continued, “He would look at like spots on the ceiling and just start freaking out and crying and he was shaking. It was kind of like the parental instinct — we need to go in.”
The family took him to Dayton Children’s Hospital and the doctors were perplexed by the recurring fever with no other notable symptoms. After several tests, they diagnosed Wilder with three simultaneous viruses: rhinovirus, enterovirus, and adenovirus. Although these childhood viruses are common and usually mild, they can become severe when combined. “They think adenovirus was the virus that was wreaking havoc in him,” Ciara said.
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“We are out of beds… You took the last one.”
Wilder went from the ER campus to the center’s main campus. This occurred during the current rise in respiratory infections in children, leading to some hospitals operating at almost full capacity. Wilder received the last available bed at Children Dayton’s. “I asked, ‘Can we switch out the crib for a bed?’ And they said, ‘We are out of beds. Like you took the last one.’ We felt very fortunate that we got in,” Ciara said. Her cousin who works at the hospital said the staff began using pre-op rooms as supplemental hospital rooms.
Wilder began to recover, and after a day of no fever, he went home. But a few weeks later, his 1-year-old sister Frankie got sick. Her condition worsened and her parents took her to the ER, where she was admitted for six hours and received IV fluids. “She tested negative for RSV, flu, and COVID — so hers was really just respiratory, like a really bad cold,” Ciara said. Fortunately, Frankie has been recovering as well.
When asked for advice for other parents, the Jacksons advocated trusting your instincts and washing your hands. “Hand washing is a big thing,” Ciara said. “And then I would say to just trust your gut and make sure you’re your child’s advocate and just push for answers.” Wilder’s father added, “Follow your gut. You know, you know your kid.” 
Flu numbers decreased during the pandemic, but this season may hold the most severe flu season in years and many children are taking the brunt of it. The high number of patients in pediatric hospitals are mostly due to the flu or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which has spiked by 69% over the past four weeks.
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The Rise in Respiratory Viruses in Children
“Last year, more people were wearing face masks and children were more likely to stay home while sick,” said Dr. Laura Romano said in Cook Children’s in-house publication. “This year, parents are sending their children to daycare and school for the first time following two years of the pandemic. …Children who haven’t been previously exposed to respiratory viruses are getting sick.” 
Doctors urge parents to vaccinate their children — especially against the flu and COVID-19 — to protect their health and prevent over-burdening hospitals already filled with such cases. Many families who bring their sick kids to the ER are forced to wait because of bed shortages. Children with less urgent illnesses may have even longer waits, even day-long stays in the ER, before being admitted. Plus, kids who need surgeries or cancer treatments may be sent home until more beds are available.
“One of the best ways to keep kids and adults out of the hospital is to make sure they’re up to date on their vaccinations,” said Dr. Anita Patel who works at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.. “I’m not just a PICU doctor, I’m also a mom. I made sure that my two-and-a-half-year-old is up to date on not only her COVID vaccination, but she’s also received her flu shot — and that is one of the best ways to prevent severe disease and hospitalization in our children.” 
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- “Family reveals ordeal of 2-year-old son in hospital with 3 viruses simultaneously.” ABC News. Sasha Pezenik. October 27, 2022
- “’Trust your gut’: Middletown parents speaking out after 2-year-old hospitalized with 3 different viruses.” WCPO. Molly Schramm. October 29, 2022
- “Children’s hospitals grapple with a nationwide surge in RSV infections.” NPR. Vanessa Romo. October 24, 2022
- “Some US hospitals report beds are full among increase in respiratory infections in children.” ABC News. Mary Kekatos. October 27, 2022