RSV: Orange County declares health emergency due to viral infections causing surge in pediatric hospitalizations, emergency room visits
Orange County has declared a state of emergency due to what officials are calling rapidly spreading viral infections that are leading to a record number of pediatric hospitalizations.
The OC Health Care Agency said Monday that daily emergency room visits are also up in the county. There is no vaccine for RSV, a common respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms, but the district wants people to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 and flu shots.
“Adherence to preventive measures, including regular flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, can help reduce the severity of illness and can help reduce the burden on hospitals this fall and winter,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, District Health Officer and HCA’s Chief Medical Officer official, the press release states. “Our best way to protect ourselves and our children from respiratory illness is still the same things we practiced during the pandemic, including wearing masks when indoors with others and staying home when you’re sick.”
In addition, a local state of emergency has been declared, allowing Orange County access to state and federal resources to combat the spread.
Health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms such as rapid breathing, head nodding, blue lips or chest pulling in children. They also say parents and caregivers should keep young children with respiratory illnesses out of daycare, even if they test negative for COVID.
One local doctor told Eyewitness News that younger children are more at risk of respiratory illness.
“Their lungs are not as developed as our older children’s lungs, and so we worry that these viruses and these inflammations will affect their lungs more. And that’s why they have symptoms like wheezing and rapid breathing and respiratory distress,” said Dr. Rishma Chand. with Dignity Health and Northridge Hospital.
New research shows vaccination of pregnant women helped protect their newborns from RSV, raising hopes that a vaccine against the virus might finally be on the way after decades of failure.
Pfizer announced Tuesday that a large international study found that vaccinating expectant mothers was nearly 82% effective in preventing severe cases of RSV in the most vulnerable first 90 days of their babies’ lives. At 6 months of age, the vaccine was still found to be 69% effective against serious illness – and there were no signs of safety problems in mothers or babies.
The search for a vaccine is not just about protecting infants. RSV is also dangerous for older adults, and Pfizer and competitor GSK recently announced that their competing injections have also been shown to be protective in older adults.
Neither finding will help this year when an early wave of RSV is already crowding children’s hospitals. But they raise the prospect that one or more vaccines could become available before next fall’s RSV season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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