On Monday, the California Department of Public Health reported the first death of a child under the age of 5 from flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) this winter season.

CDPH said it would not be releasing more information about the child for now to protect patient confidentiality.

“This tragic event serves as a stark reminder that respiratory viruses can be deadly, especially in very young children and infants,” State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director Dr. Tomás Aragón said. “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.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the respiratory syncytial virus is a “common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.”

The CDC said most people recover within two weeks but that RSV can be serious for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.

CDPH said the RSV season, which usually starts in December and peaks in February, began in October usual this year.

CDPH advised healthcare facilities that do not have pediatric services to “explore short-term measures to expand capacity for evaluation and treatment of pediatric patients” in response to an anticipated surge in hospitalizations from an early winter virus season.

CDC estimates that RSV is responsible for 100-300 deaths and 58,000-80,000 hospitalizations of children aged 5 or younger annually in the United States.

CDPH also issued guidance to help prevent the spread of illnesses:

  1. Get Vaccinated, Boosted and Treated if You Test Positive
    Flu and COVID-19 vaccines continue to be your best defense to limit severe illness and death – and you can get both at the same time. If you test positive for COVID-19, contact your doctor or a test-to-treat site immediately to seek treatment. Treatments for flu and COVID-19 work best when started soon after symptoms begin.
  2. Stay Home if You’re Sick!
    It’s crucial to stay home if you are feeling ill. Avoid close contact with others to protect them, and take the time you need to heal. This is especially important for respiratory viruses like the flu, RSV and COVID-19, which can lead to more severe illness.
  3. Wear a Mask
    There is no vaccine for RSV, so wearing a mask can significantly slow the spread and protect babies and young children who do not yet have immunity and are too young to wear a mask themselves. Wearing a mask in indoor public places is a good way to limit the spread of germs.
  4. Wash Your Hands
    Frequent handwashing, with soap and warm water – for at least 20 seconds, is     an easy and very effective way to prevent getting sick and spreading germs.
  5. Cover Your Cough or Sneeze
    Remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow, your arm, or a disposable tissue to help prevent the spread of winter viruses. Just make sure to wash your hands or sanitize and dispose of your tissue after.