A young child in California has died from respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, health officials said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Riverside University Health System – Public Health did not release the child’s name, city of residence or gender, just that he was under 4 years old.
Additionally, officials have not released details of the child’s illness, other than that he died at a local hospital “after contracting a respiratory illness that is possibly related to the respiratory virus. syncytial”.
Jose Arballo Jr., spokesperson for RUHS – Public Health, told ABC News the death occurred late last week but was not officially released until Tuesday.
He added that the child suffered from “several days of symptoms” before being taken to hospital and was only hospitalized “for a short time” before he died.
“The loss of a child is devastating and all of Public Health sends its deepest condolences to the family, loved ones and anyone affected by this tragic event,” said County Public Health Officer Dr. Geoffrey Leung. of Riverside, in a statement.
The death comes as RSV infections continue to spread across the country. Public health officials said the season started much earlier than usual, with fall cases comparable to those usually seen in January or February.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, weekly cases of RSV nationwide fell from 5,872 in the week ending October 1 to 16,512 in the week ending November 5.
In California, the five-week average of positive RSV tests rose from 353.3 in the week ending October 1 to 1,335 in the week ending November 5, according to CDC data.
The surge has led to several hospitals operating at or near capacity and emergency departments with long wait times.
Health experts have said RSV is emerging earlier and affecting more children than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, there has been little to no RSV activity due to lockdowns, school closures, and mitigation measures such as mask wearing and social distancing. Now that most of these measures have been lifted, children are being exposed to viruses like RSV for the first time.
“That just leaves a lot of children, young children in particular, born since March 2020 who have yet to encounter RSV infections,” said Dr. Larry Kociolek, medical director of Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, to ABC News in a recent interview. “And that will increase the ability of the virus to spread and increase the number of children who will be infected.”
Although deaths are not common and usually occur in people with pre-existing conditions, between 100 and 500 pediatric deaths are attributed to RSV each year, according to the CDC.
This is not the first death reported from RSV in the United States Earlier this month, California reported a pediatric death from a combination of RSV and influenza with deaths also reported in Michigan and the United States. ‘Oklahoma.
Arballo Jr. said the county is also investigating the death of a child under 10 who tested positive for RSV.
The county asks families during the holiday season to be extra careful with babies and young children, who are particularly susceptible to RSV. Arballo Jr. said adults should consider wearing a face mask and washing their hands frequently, and advised against handling children if they are sick.