Orange County Declares Emergency Amid RSV Surge

A surge in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases has prompted the Orange County Health Department to declare an emergency.

As County News reported last month, hospitals began seeing an early spike in RSV among children in September. Cases typically don’t peak until winter time.

OC health officials say the problem is getting worse as the early RSV surge and flu season converge. Children’s Health of Orange County is experiencing an “unprecedented volume” in its emergency rooms and inpatient units, according to the vice president of patient care services.

“I’m concerned with what the future holds,” said Health Officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong. "If there’s a simultaneous surge in both RSV and flu, “we’re in trouble,” she said. “And typically those two viruses do affect our younger kids. And there’s only so many beds that a pediatric hospital has to care for the very sick.”

The emergency declaration will require hospitals without pediatric units to treat sick children.

Neighboring LA County is also seeing high volumes of RSV patients, though it has not yet had to declare an emergency. Positive RSV specimens in the county are at their highest level in the last five years.

RSV is a common virus that can cause severe symptoms in young children, immunocompromised children, and babies under six months old. Typical symptoms include runny nose, cough, fever or sore throat. Signs that a child is experiencing complications and should seek medical treatment include abnormal breathing or dehydration (in babies, failure to produce a wet diaper within seven or eight hours).

Read more about RSV here.