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Orange County Declares Health Emergency Due To Respiratory Infections

A young girl with medium-toned skin closes her eyes tight as she gets the COVID vaccine from a doctor.
Lia Sughey Castro Roman, 6, got the COVID-19 vaccine last November. While there is no vaccine for RSV, health officials are pleading with parents and guardians to get children vaccinated against the flu and the coronavirus.
(Alborz Kamalizad
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Hospitals in Orange County are overflowing again, but not because of COVID. Many are running out of available beds because of an early surge in respiratory infections, particularly respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among children.

What's happening? Orange County officials declared a health emergencybecause of rapidly spreading viral infections that have caused record numbers of pediatric hospitalizations and daily emergency room visits. The emergency proclamations allow the county to use state and federal resources and get mutual aid from other counties.

Why now? During the last two-plus years of masking and social distancing and other precautions people took to protect themselves from COVID-19, fewer people ended up in the hospital because of common respiratory viruses like RSV and the flu. Now that those precautions have largely been lifted, these viruses are spreading fast again, hitting babies and other young children especially hard because RSV tends to make kids sickest the first time they get it.

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What guardians can do: There is no vaccine for RSV, but Orange County health officials are pleading with parents and caregivers to get children vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19, and keep them home from school or daycare if they are sick, even if they’ve tested negative for COVID-19.

Here's what Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county's health officer, advises:

“Following preventive measures, including remaining up to date with other vaccinations such as flu and COVID-19, can help reduce the severity of disease and can help reduce the burden on hospitals this fall and winter. Our best shot at protecting ourselves and our children from respiratory illnesses continues to be the same things we practiced throughout the pandemic including the use of masks when indoors around others and staying home when you are sick.”

Go deeper: What You Should Know About The Troubling Rise in RSV Cases In SoCal And Nationwide