One of California’s top public health officials said he’s seen an increase in COVID, flu and RSV – all just before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus – can hit younger children especially hard. 

“Unfortunately for RSV we don’t have specific medications to treat RSV,” Ghaly said during a Thursday news briefing.  

“First the reality is that RSV for most kids will cause an inconvenience of a cold … certainly with that’s all it were, we would be a lot less concerned,” he said, adding that infants and toddlers who get the virus could develop respiratory inflammation and other health problems. 

RSV is a common respiratory virus that is the most common cause of bronchitis and pneumonia in children under the age of 1 in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

So far, one child younger than 5 has been killed by RSV combined with the flu in the state, according to a state Department of Public Health news release issued Monday. 

The state health department has issued guidelines for managing the spread of RSV.

“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,” state health officer Dr. Thomas Aragon said in the Monday news release. 

Earlier this month, Orange County public health officials also noted an increase in the virus and said it’s straining local children’s hospitals. 

[Read: Respiratory Virus Fills up OC’s Pediatric Hospitals, Officials Declare Emergency]

Meanwhile, Ghaly said there’s a recent uptick in flu and COVID cases.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, public health officials like Ghaly have feared the increase of both viruses at the same time. 

“This year we’re actually starting to see it,” Ghaly said. 

He urged Californians to get both the flu and COVID vaccine in an effort to keep hospitalizations low – especially as the holiday season kicks off next week with Thanksgiving. 

In previous holiday seasons, Orange County – along with the Golden State – have seen holiday COVID spikes, which sent waves of people to hospitals. 

“The lower to moderate transmission trends we’ve enjoyed across California have begun to shift,” Ghaly said.

Orange County sat at a 6.6% positivity rate as of Thursday, according to state data. 

That’s a 1.5% increase over the past week.

There were also 143 OC residents hospitalized for COVID, including 22 in intensive care units. 

COVID has now killed 7,561 Orange County residents, according to the county Health Care Agency. 

During the last two winters, OC and California saw dramatic increases in COVID cases. 

Over 2,200 county residents died during the first winter wave in January and February 2021, 

with more than 2,100 people hospitalized at one point. 

The second winter wave of the pandemic, which ended earlier this year, saw a dramatic fall in deaths. During January and February 2022, the virus killed 920 people. Hospitalizations were far lower, with just over 1,200 people hospitalized at one point.

“Over the past one to two weeks … we’ve seen a roughly 25% increase in COVID transmission – that is both test positivity and case rates,” Ghaly said. “We are dealing with three threats at once, so together they do add up.” 

Spencer Custodio is the civic editor. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.

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