With the holidays approaching and temperatures beginning to drop, health officials continue to monitor upticks in seasonal respiratory viruses.
Similar to previous years, COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases are expected to increase in coming weeks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been monitoring the spread of respiratory viruses throughout the year to learn more about the winter season outlook ,while also continuing to stress that immunization remains “the safest strategy for avoiding hospitalizations, long-term health outcomes, and death.”
On Nov. 16, the CDC announced the availability of a treatment used to protect infants against severe RSV disease. RSV is a virus that impacts the lungs and respiratory tract. Mild symptoms of RSV include cold-like symptoms and in some infants can result in lower respiratory tract diseases such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis.
“CDC and FDA are committed to expanding access to this important immunization so that more parents have peace of mind during the winter virus season,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, CDC’s principal deputy director, in a statement.
The treatment for RSV, Beyfortus, is a monoclonal antibody designed to protect infants and children against severe RSV.
According to the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health (SBCDPH), historically, the county has experienced an increase in emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to flu-like illnesses around the holiday season. SBCDPH is monitoring these illnesses and updates a public dashboard every Wednesday. As of now, the county is experiencing a 4% average of total emergency room visits related to flu-like illnesses within the last week.
San Bernardino County Department of Public Health (SBCDPH) monitors influenza-like illnesses using a surveillance dashboard to track hospitalizations and reported deaths related to pneumonia (Image via SBCDPH).
In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the new treatment for those who are at risk for developing severe disease. One dose of the drug is administered as a single injection in the muscle, before or during RSV season. The use of this treatment is approved for infants born during or who are entering their first RSV season, and in children up to 24 months of age.
California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomás J. Aragón encouraged Californias to be vigilant about upcoming winter respiratory viruses in October, just before Halloween.
“As more people are heading indoors for school, fitness routines, and festive gatherings, Californians are getting exposed to respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Aragón in a statement.
“Anyone can be affected by winter illnesses, however, some individuals, including older adults, people with weakened immune systems or chronic conditions, pregnant people and young children are at higher risk for severe illness and death.”
He encouraged families to talk to their providers about vaccinations that are appropriate for individuals as updated COVID-19 boosters are now available. The CDC has updated guidance on updated COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax.
Currently, the CDC advises that everyone aged five years and older should receive one dose of an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against serious illness from COVID-19. For children ages five to 11 years old who are unvaccinated or who have previously received a COVID-19 vaccine before September 12, 2023, the CDC advises they get one updated Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Additionally, the Biden administration resumed free at-home tests where every American household can order free COVID-19 test kits through the United States Post Office. The government has also encouraged Americans to examine their previous COVID-19 tests that may have an expired date, but now may have an extended shelf-life after reevaluation by the FDA.
This article is published as part of the Commonwealth Fund Health Equity Reporting Fellowship.
Source: Black Voice News