Wednesday, November 30, 2022

First RSV Child Death Reported in California as Cases Surge Across the Country

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms, and most people are exposed to it by the age of two. The virus targets the lower respiratory tract, causing pneumonia (lung infection) and bronchiolitis (lung inflammation), which can lead to severe complications in babies under 12 months.

The California Department of Public Health announced Monday that a child under five years old had died in the state due to the flu and RSV. Cases are on the rise nationwide and have now reached California. California is the latest state to experience an uptick in respiratory syncytial virus cases.

Dr. Tomás Aragónv, the State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director said, “Our hearts go out to the family of this young child.”

“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.”

Aragón urged parents to remember basic preventative measures such as mask-wearing, frequent handwashing, and staying home when sick. While no vaccines are available to prevent RSV infections, the CDPH advises parents to protect their children with a seasonal influenza vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory alert earlier in November after observing an increase in RSV detections and RSV-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

According to the report, some regions showed near-seasonal peak levels, usually in December or January. This year, rates of RSV-related hospitalizations began to rise in late spring and continued to rise throughout the summer until early fall.

“The reason why it’s spreading now is unclear, but likely relates to the reason we didn’t see much RSV and influenza last winter: masking, distancing, and good handwashing,” explained Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad and a pediatrician with specialization in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Child Health Advocacy. “As those precautions start to go away, we can expect germs to return.”

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown declared a “state of emergency” on Monday, at least partly because of an increase in RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, hospitalizations at pediatric intensive care units.

In Michigan, the capacity of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor has been reached due to an increase in RSV-related cases. According to a hospital spokesperson, it has treated 270 RSV cases since September, compared to last year with 183 RSV cases for the same period.

“I’ve worked in children’s hospitals for [almost] 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this in terms of RSV — or anything else either,” said Luanne Thomas Ewald, chief operating officer of C.S. Mott Hospital, to The Post.