Health officer urges precautions as respiratory viruses spread

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Yolo County’s health officer is urging residents to protect themselves as cases of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 increase.

“We are seeing higher than usual influenza and RSV activity for this time of year,” said Dr. Aimee Sisson. “We are also seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“I encourage everybody in Yolo County to take actions to protect themselves and others from what looks to be a rough respiratory virus season ahead by washing their hands often, getting vaccinated and boosted against flu and COVID-19, wearing a mask indoors, covering their cough, and staying home when sick.”

RSV activity is especially high this year, Sisson reported, with hospitals across California straining to care for large numbers of ill children.

UC Davis Health said Monday that there are “15 children in our hospital who are very ill with RSV or flu.”

According to the California Department of Public Health, RSV activity usually rises in December and peaks in February, but this year began rapidly rising in October.

Shortly after Sisson urged precautions on Monday morning, the California Department of Public Health announced the first death this season of a child under the age of five due to flu and RSV.

The state did not provide additional details about the death, including where it occurred, but CDPH director Dr. Tomás Aragón said, “this tragic event serves as a stark reminder that respiratory viruses can be deadly, especially in very young children and infants.”

“Our hearts go out to the family of this young child,” he said.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms and most people recover in one to two weeks without treatment. However, RSV can be serious, especially in infants and older adults, causing pneumonia and bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) in children under the age of one.

Respiratory viruses like RSV, influenza, SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19), and viruses that cause the common cold spread through respiratory droplets.

Contact with respiratory droplets can occur when an infected person coughs or sneezes and you get droplets in their eyes, nose, or mouth, or when you touch a surface with the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands. COVID-19 can also be transmitted through smaller particles called aerosols that stay in the air for extended periods of time and travel over long distances before being breathed in, according to Sisson.

The symptoms of RSV, influenza, COVID-19, and the common cold overlap significantly, and only healthcare provider testing can definitively tell these infections apart.

Home COVID-19 tests are a valuable tool to detect COVID-19, but they are unable to detect other viral infections. A person with a negative COVID test could still have influenza, RSV, or another viral infection. Persons with cold-like symptoms should stay home until their fever is gone and their symptoms are improving, even with a negative COVID-19 test.

To protect yourself and others from respiratory viruses this season, Sisson said to consider doing the following:

* Get Vaccinated, Boosted (and Treated) — Flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at the same time. Visit to find a nearby vaccine clinic. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should contact their doctor or a test-to-treat site immediately to seek treatment. Treatments work best when started right after symptoms begin.

* Wear a Mask — Wearing a mask in indoor public places is an excellent way to limit the spread of respiratory viruses, said Sisson. N95, KN95, and KF94 masks are the most protective.

* Wash Your Hands — Frequent handwashing, with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, is an easy way to prevent getting sick and spreading germs. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.

* Stay Home if You’re Sick — 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.

* Cover Your Cough or Sneeze — Remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow, your arm, or a tissue to help prevent the spread of winter viruses. Make sure to dispose of your tissue after, then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.

Additionally, CDPH is recommending that all healthcare facilities, including inpatient and outpatient facilities without existing pediatric facilities, explore short-term measures to expand the capacity for the evaluation and treatment of pediatric patients.

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