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Local Flu Cases Double, But Another Virus is Spreading Faster

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — This season’s powerful influenza outbreak is being blamed for 5 deaths in California, including two in the Los Angeles area.

Flu activity has seen a steep increase in recent weeks with the state’s number of outpatient visits and hospitalizations higher than normal for mid-January, public health officials said Friday.

But health officials are equally concerned about record levels of infections with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV — another virus that impacts the respiratory system, and which can be particularly dangerous in young children.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told the L.A. Times that that many people who had shown up in local hospitals over the past six weeks or so complaining of flu-like illness actually had RSV, and that the county was experiencing the “highest level of RSV we’ve seen.”

The county’s most recent Influenza Watch report said RSV prevalence at the end of the December was the highest recorded in the last three years.

In all, 460 people have tested positive for the virus this season — 143 of them just in the last week of 2012.

In adults, RSV infection can seem like a flu, causing a runny nose, a sore throat and an all-around sick feeling.

In young kids, it can be very serious, Fielding said.

Children with RSV, and particularly premature infants, can develop fever, a croupy cough, rapid breathing and cyanosis, the bluish tinge that skin gets when oxygen levels fall. It also can result in complications such as ear infections, bronchitis or pneumonia, he added.

During a conversation with reporters on Friday, U.S Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Thomas Frieden said that he thought many of the reports of rampant flu might reflect the large numbers of people visiting their doctors with stomach woes from norovirus or respiratory ills from RSV or even the common cold.

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