Orange County has declared a health emergency over what officials describe as a fast-spreading viral infection that is leading to a record number of hospitalizations of children.

The OC Health Care Agency said Monday that daily visits to the emergency room are also increasing in the county. There is no vaccine against RSV, a common respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms, but the county wants people to be up to date on COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

Regina Chinseo Kwong, County Health Officer and Chief Medical Officer of HCA said in a statement. “The best we can do to protect ourselves and our children from respiratory illnesses is still the same things we’ve practiced throughout the pandemic including using masks when you’re indoors around others and staying home when you’re sick.”

In addition, a local emergency has been declared, allowing Orange County access to state and federal resources to combat the spread.

Health officials are warning parents to look out for symptoms such as rapid breathing, head turning, lips turning blue or children tightening in their rib cage. They also say parents and caregivers should keep young children with respiratory illnesses out of childcare, even if they test negative for COVID.

One local doctor told Eyewitness News that young children are more likely to develop respiratory illnesses.

Dr. said. Reshma Chand of Dignity Health and Northridge Hospital.

New research shows that vaccinating pregnant women helped protect their newborns from respiratory syncytial virus, raising hopes that vaccines against the virus may finally come close after decades of failure.

Pfizer announced Tuesday that a large international study found that vaccinating expectant mothers was approximately 82% effective in preventing severe cases of RSV in their most vulnerable children in the first 90 days of life. At 6 months of age, the vaccine was still proven to be 69% effective against serious diseases – and there were no signs of safety issues in mothers or children.

The pursuit of a vaccine is not just to protect children. RSV is dangerous for seniors too, and both Pfizer and rival GSK recently announced that competing shots have also proven to protect seniors.

None of the findings will help this year when an early surge in respiratory syncytial virus is already crowding children’s hospitals. But they are raising the possibility that one or more vaccines will be available before the RSV season next fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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