Breanna Reeves |
State and local health officials have issued health advisories as cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other illnesses increase this winter. Higher levels of RSV cases have been reported this fall, though this virus is a common infection among children.
RSV is a respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people recover within two weeks, but in some instances RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs).
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, flu season and increased RSV cases, public health officials warn the public to protect themselves against these respiratory illnesses by continuing to wear masks and staying home if symptomatic.
The San Bernardino County Department of Public Health (SBCDPH) issued a health advisory early this month after reporting an increase in pediatric hospitalizations and daily emergency room visits for respiratory infections.
“San Bernardino County is seeing high rates of respiratory illness severely impacting capacity in our pediatric hospitals with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) being a contributing factor,” said County Health Officer Dr. Michael Sequeira in a statement. “Respiratory illnesses can severely affect young infants and children, and we are encouraging residents to take precautions.”
SBCDPH media specialist Michelle Caldera explained in an email that RSV is not part of the Title 17 Reportable Diseases and Conditions and therefore is not formally tracked unless there is a death in a case with a child under five years old.
“In the last week (10/30/22-11/5/22), nine percent of the ED visits in the county were related to influenza-like illness symptoms, a slight increase from previous weeks and slightly higher than similar weeks in the previous years,” Caldera said via email.
In 2021, the county reported that six per cent of emergency department visits were related to influenza-like illness symptoms compared to 2020, where 8% of visits were due to influenza-like illness symptoms.
Riverside County Public Health officials are also encouraging residents to take precautions to protect their children as RSV cases among children rise.
“It’s that time of year and we are seeing children in Riverside County, some younger than two years old, who are sick with colds and coughs and some with RSV. While RSV is a common respiratory virus, it can make young children quite ill. So, we are asking that parents do what they can to prevent kids from getting sick,” said Riverside County Public Health Officer Geoffrey Leung in a statement.
RSV cases or hospitalizations are not required to be reported to health departments in California unless there are deaths. There have been no reported RSV deaths in Riverside County.
“This is likely in part because RSV is very common, and in most children and adults leads to minor, cold-like symptoms or for some younger children, brief hospitalizations for supportive care. Virtually all children get an RSV infection by the time they are two years old,” said Jose Arballo Jr., Senior Public Information Specialist, Riverside University Health System-Public Health, via email.
Riverside County does track influenza-like illnesses, which would also note diseases related to RSV. According to the most recent surveillance report for the county, there has been moderate to high influenza-like illness activity levels in Riverside County. The report noted an increase in emergency department visits from 4.3% to 7% during the week of Oct. 23, 2022 through Oct. 29, 2022.
“Our winter virus season is here early, especially for our kids. We are seeing stress on our clinics and hospitals that care for kids, especially infants and kids under 12,” State Public Health Officer and California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomás Aragón said in a press release. “It’s important to remember that kids get infected from other kids and adults, so everyone needs to do their part.”