SAN DIEGO — There are new concerns over highly-contagious respiratory viruses – the tripledemic of the flu, COVID and RSV – heading into Christmas and New Year’s, as San Diego County health officials reported a surge in post-Thanksgiving COVID cases.
Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, chief medical officer of Acute Care Operations and Clinical Excellence with Scripps Health, says it’s a challenge for hospitals across the county.
“We have 110 patients in the hospital right now with COVID, but also 52 patients with flu. This time last year we had a similar number of COVID patients, but we only had four patients in the hospital with flu. So having both of those viruses at the same time is really going to start stretching hospital beds even more and so I’m worried about what’s to come right after Christmas and New Year’s,” Dr. Sharieff said.
Health officials are urging people to take extra caution with their own health and protecting others in the coming weeks.
“My big message is that if you have mild symptoms at all, even if your home antigen test is negative, please don’t go to large gatherings. You run the risk of really infecting vulnerable patients right now who may not be symptomatic and now they become positive because you’ve gone there because you think you just have a mild runny nose,” Dr. Sharieff said.
With this flu season shaping up to be one of the worst in the last decade, the California Department of Public Health is now including no-cost flu testing at the state’s COVID-19 testing sites.
According to Dr. Sharieff, “I think it’s a great thing because the symptoms overlap. It’s worthwhile to get tested for both if you have symptoms and you’re not sure which one you have.”
Health officials say it’s unclear just how bad this flu season will get and that it’s still a good time to get vaccinated.
“You could actually get it in time for the holidays because it takes two weeks after vaccination to get some immunity. So if you get it now, you might be in good shape for Christmas, at least for the flu,” Dr. Sharieff said.