Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) continues to impact local hospital systems

Orange County continues to experience a surge in pediatric respiratory illnesses- primarily from Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) which is impacting our local hospital systems.  However, the surge of respiratory illnesses continues locally with higher Emergency Department (ED) visits occurring in the last 7 days compared to previous weeks.

Over the past few days, our primary pediatric hospital, Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC)  hit a record high of 489 ED visits.  Adult hospitals are noting a rise in pediatric patients seeking care in their ED’s from respiratory illnesses.  It is important to note that ALL Orange County Hospital Emergency Departments have equipment and capability to handle pediatric patients.  However, only 4 (CHOC, CHOC-Mission Hospital, Fountain Valley Medical Center & Kaiser Anaheim) have pediatric medical/pediatric intensive care inpatient beds with appropriate physicians, nurses & services to support this special population.   All OC hospitals have been encouraged to activate their internal surge plans, contemplate expansion of pediatric capabilities by seeking any/all necessary state regulatory waivers to safely care for hospital level pediatric patients.  And, most health systems have expanded urgent care hours & added family medicine appointments to help decreases the impacts to the emergency departments.

Since the County Health Officer declared a Local Health Emergency on 10/31/2022, weekly meetings have been convened with local hospitals.  Additionally, HCA leadership have made site visits to several pediatric licensed hospitals. Emergency Department load level reduction which involves coordinated efforts through the use of base hospital coordinators to divert ambulances from CHOC to other ED’s was initiated on November 3, 2022 in an effort to decompress CHOC ED.  Despite this, CHOC ED visits continue to rise and inpatient bed availability stretched beyond capacity.

Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.

Preventative actions:

  • Do not go to school or work when you are symptomatic.
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick, and when you are sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
  • Mask when indoors or large group settings.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before and after eating and using the bathroom.
  • Get your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines to prevent complications from these viral illnesses.

Additionally, parents and caregivers should keep young children with acute respiratory illnesses out of childcare, even if they have tested negative for COVID-19. For more information on RSV Prevention, please visit The CDC website.

Based on the totality of the situation, the OC Medical Health Operational Area Coordinator (MHOAC) has activated the County Medical Surge Plan & the Health Care Agency Operations Center.  Activating the Surge Plan allows all providers to prepare for worsening surge and increased situational awareness reporting within our Region & to the State Emergency Operations Center.  All EMS system stakeholders are to follow emergency communication protocols & remain responsive to requests for information or resource sharing.  As with the COVID-19 event, we will also be posting all information for situational reporting & resource requesting on the Agency Operations Center website.