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State records first death of child from flu, RSV this season
flu
Vaccines continue to be the most effective tool to limit the risk of severe illness and death from circulating winter viruses. - photo by Photo Contributed

The California Department of Public Health reported on Monday the first death of this winter season of a child under the age of 5 due to flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

Young children are most vulnerable to severe complications from RSV and the flu, especially if they have underlying medical conditions or were born premature.

To protect patient confidentiality, no additional information, including where the death occurred, is being released at this time.

“Our hearts go out to the family of this young child,” said State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director Dr. Tomás Aragón. “This tragic event serves as a stark reminder that respiratory viruses can be deadly, especially in very young children and infants. We are entering a busy winter virus season – with RSV, flu and COVID-19 spreading – and urge parents and guardians to vaccinate their children as soon as possible against flu and COVID-19. It’s also important to follow basic prevention tips like frequent hand washing, wearing a mask, and staying home when sick to slow the spread of germs.”

To help address the current and anticipated further surge in hospitalizations from an early winter virus season, CDPH issued new guidance for hospitals on how to respond to the growing cases of RSV, along with flu cases rising.

An early wave of RSV activity recently hitting levels similar to seasonal peaks in prior years, and circulation of other respiratory viruses has led to increased hospitalizations among infants and young children and has contributed to stresses in the pediatric healthcare delivery system in California and across the US. Pediatric available bed capacity has been decreasing over recent weeks in the state.

Influenza activity has also started early with statewide status moving from “low” to “moderate” activity and high levels in southern California, with the predominant strain (Influenza A H3N2) generally associated with more severe influenza seasons. COVID-19 activity is also increasing as noted by increases in wastewater surveillance and recent increases in case rates, test positivity, and statewide new admissions increase of almost 16% over the last week. In addition, the relatively mild seasons for flu and RSV over the past two years likely leaves more susceptible children who have lower immunity as a result of fewer exposures. Multiple respiratory viruses, including influenza and COVID-19, are expected to increase in the coming months, further stretching California hospital resources for both adults and children.

The guidance, in part, allows health facilities to reconfigure space as needed to accommodate patient surge. In addition, CDPH is recommending that all health care facilities, including inpatient and outpatient facilities without existing pediatric services, explore short-term measures to expand capacity for evaluation and treatment of pediatric patients.

Vaccines continue to be the most effective tool to limit the risk of severe illness and death from circulating winter viruses. Vaccinating an entire household against flu and COVID-19 helps boost immunity and lowers the risk of severe outcomes from these viruses. It will also keep hospital beds open for those who need urgent medical attention.

The 2022–2023 RSV season began earlier than usual, with activity rapidly increasing throughout October. Usually, activity rises in December and peaks in February. On Oct. 3, CDPH released a health advisory addressing both this early activity and the use of the preventative antibody treatment palivizumab in eligible high-risk infants. 

The CDPH encourages all Californians to follow these five tips to protect themselves and others from severe illness and hospitalization:

·         Get Vaccinated, Boosted and Treated if You Test Positive
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines continue to be your best defense to limit severe illness and death – and you can get both at the same time. If you test positive for COVID-19, contact your doctor or a test-to-treat site immediately to seek treatment. Treatments for flu and COVID-19 work best when started soon after symptoms begin.

·         Stay Home if You’re Sick!
It’s crucial to stay home if you are feeling ill. Avoid close contact with others to protect them, and take the time you need to heal. This is especially important for respiratory viruses like the flu, RSV and COVID-19, which can lead to more severe illness.

·         Wear a Mask
There is no vaccine for RSV, so wearing a mask can significantly slow the spread and protect babies and young children who do not yet have immunity and are too young to wear a mask themselves. Wearing a mask in indoor public places is a good way to limit the spread of germs.

·         Wash Your Hands
Frequent handwashing, with soap and warm water – for at least 20 seconds, is     an easy and very effective way to prevent getting sick and spreading germs.

·         Cover Your Cough or Sneeze
Remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow, your arm, or a disposable tissue to help prevent the spread of winter viruses. Just make sure to wash your hands or sanitize and dispose of your tissue after.

For more information about the flu, visit the https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/Influenza.aspx.

To find a flu or COVID-19 vaccine location near you, visit https://myturn.ca.gov.