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The California Department of Health reported the first flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in a child under the age of 5. 

CDPH said it will not provide additional information to protect the patient’s confidentiality. 

“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.” 

Young children are the most vulnerable to RSV and the flu, especially if they have underlying medical conditions or were born prematurely, according to CDHP. 

State health officials issued new Guidance for Response to Surge in Respiratory Viruses among Pediatric Patients to address the current and anticipated hospitalization surge during the winter months. The 2022–2023 RSV season began earlier than usual, with activity rapidly increasing throughout October. Usually, activity rises in December and peaks in February. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-Uhl) virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.

People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected, according to the CDC. Symptoms include runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing, but these symptoms usually appear in stages. 

In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.

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

  1. Get Vaccinated, Boosted, and Treated if You Test Positive 
  2. 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.
  3. Stay Home if You’re Sick! 
  4. 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.
  5. Wear a Mask 
  6. 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.
  7. Wash Your Hands 
  8. 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.
  9. Cover Your Cough or Sneeze 
  10. 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 CDPH Influenza Resource page. To find a flu or COVID-19 vaccine location near you, visit My Turn – California COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling & Notifications.

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