SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Health officials are urging everyone 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine this year in order to avoid a “twindemic” of Covid-19 and influenza cases packing hospitals this winter.
Santa Cruz County Deputy Health Officer David Ghilarducci says that getting a flu shot is the best way to protect against the disease, and to protect the community.
Covid-19 and influenza are viral and have many of the same symptoms, Ghilarducci says.
“Both carry significant risk of serious illness, and while Covid is more deadly, we consider flu an annual public health emergency,” he said.
Health officials say that getting a flu vaccine every year is important because flu strains change over time.
In California, flu activity usually begins to increase in late November or December, and can last through April, Ghilarducci said.
“With Covid we are at significant risk of overwhelming our health system,” he said. “Vaccines keep people out of the hospitals. “They do make a big difference in people’s lives, and to not take advantage of that would be a real travesty.”
According to the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (HSA), flu and Covid-19 have similar symptoms including fever, cough, body aches, chills and fatigue. In most cases, people should not visit the emergency room for symptoms, but should call their healthcare provider and get tested for Covid-19 and flu.
Those tested will likely have to stay home from work and isolate away from their families while awaiting results.
Certain groups may experience complications from the flu and should contact their healthcare provider promptly if they develop flu symptoms. These include pregnant women, children younger than 5, adults 65 and older and people with chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes. Anyone who is very sick should go to the emergency room for treatment, the HSA said.
Finding a place to get a Covid-19 test could be easy, as the county now has the capacity to test as many as 600 people per day, says HSA spokeswoman Corinne Hyland.
That’s thanks to a lab run by UC Santa Cruz, in addition to 19 sites, including at Ramsay Park in Watsonville, CVS Pharmacies in Capitola and Watsonville and Westside Pharmacy in Santa Cruz.
“We’ve really grown in the numbers of tests we can offer,” Hyland said.
Since local health officials began testing for Covid-19, they have reported 48,040 negative results, according to the HSA. There have been 2,427 positive cases, 281 of which are still active. A total of 2,134 people have recovered, and 12 people have died.
Keeping safe from flu and Covid-19
- Stay away from people who are sick and stay home when you or your child are sick for at least 24 hours after symptoms go away
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow, arm or disposable tissue. If you use disposable tissue, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands afterwards
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Wear a mask