RSV: California reports first child death due to flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus

California is reporting the first death of a child under the age of 5 due to flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

California Department of Public Health officials announced the death Monday, urging parents to vaccinate their children as soon as possible as they are most vulnerable to severe complications from RSV and the flu, especially if they have underlying health conditions.

Additional details on the child who died were not released.

"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."


RSV can cause severe breathing problems for babies, while flu cases are also starting to rise. The situation is similar in much of the country where doctors are bracing for the possibility that RSV, flu and COVID-19 could combine to stress hospitals.

Reports of flu are already high in 17 states, and the hospitalization rate hasn’t been this high this early since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The winter flu season usually flu ramps up in December or January.

This comes two weeks after Orange County declared a local health emergency due to record numbers of pediatric hospitalizations and daily emergency room visits over rapidly-spreading viral infections.

Officials have issued new guidance in response to the surge in RSV cases among children to help address the current and expected continued surge in hospitalizations from an early winter virus season.

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

Officials have provided the following tips:

  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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.