A two-hit of COVID-19 and the flu hit California, making residents sick – some so badly they have had to go to the hospital — interrupting daily life and threatening to upset holiday plans.
But as both diseases spread widely, officials stress that Californians are not helpless. There are steps everyone can take to better protect themselves and those around them.
Here are a few tips:
Get your shots
Vaccines are available for COVID-19 and the flu – and officials say rolling up your sleeves is an effective way to ward off serious illness.
The Updated COVID-19 Reminder became available in September, but most people did not receive it. Statewide, 19.4% of eligible residents received the supplemental dose, according the California Department of Public Health.
New bivalent recall is formulated to protect not only against the original strain of coronavirus, but also against the Omicron sub-variants that have dominated the country for much of the year – namely BA.5.
“Getting this updated bivalent vaccine is the most important thing you can do to make sure the immunity is up to date and you can fight the virus that is out there,” said response coordinator Dr Ashish Jha. White House COVID-19.
Among UC San Francisco employees and students, 1 in 100 people who received the updated COVID-19 reminder have since contracted a coronavirus infection. But of those who haven’t been vaccinated, 1 in 20 have been infected, said Dr. Ralph Gonzales, associate dean of UC San Francisco, at a recent campus town hall.
“When you have a good strain match with the booster and the vaccine, you’re actually preventing quite a lot of infections,” Gonzales said.
It’s also not too late to get your round of primary COVID vaccines. In October, unvaccinated Californians were twice as likely to be infected and hospitalized with COVID-19 and three times more likely to die from the disease than their vaccinated counterparts, state data show.
The flu vaccine is also very well suited to the flu strains circulating this season, officials say.
“Because any case of flu can end up being serious, especially when it spreads to people at high risk – and that includes the elderly and the elderly. young children — we ask you to know that it’s not too late to get your seasonal flu shot,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
Officials also note that residents can receive both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.
“It’s really easy. It’s totally safe. That works. Your immune system is very good at being able to handle two vaccines at once,” Jha said on Friday.
Wash your hands, cover your cough and sneeze
It sounds simple, but it’s true. Many viral diseases, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus – or RSV – are spread by touch, for example by coming into contact with a contaminated surface and then with your face.
“Spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to soap and water,” Ferrer said.
It’s also a good idea to disinfect frequently touched surfaces, Gonzales said.
Avoid touching your face as much as possible is also a good idea. The flu can be spread by touching a surface contaminated with a virus and then touching your hand, eyes or mouth.
“Really good studies have shown that if we can work harder to be vigilant about this, it will increase our chances of staying flu-free,” Gonzales said.
The coronavirus, on the other hand, is mainly transmitted in the air – namely when an infected person coughs or sneezes. That’s why it’s important to cover your face, using something like your elbow or a tissue, when you sneeze or cough.
Urge the sick to stay home
It’s a shame to cancel events, especially after the hiatuses of the past two years, but even a tickle in your throat or a feeling of bad weather should be a strong warning signal to stay home.
Take a quick test before an event
A rapid coronavirus test can help identify asymptomatic people who are infected and contagious before attending a gathering. Strategy isn’t foolproof, but it can help, especially if the test is taken as close to the start of an event as possible.
Host social events outdoors or open a window
There is a reduced risk of viral transmission when events take place outdoors. It is best to offer drinks and food outside, if possible. Improving ventilation by opening doors and windows or using an air purifier can also help.
Think about masking
Officials and experts say wearing a mask in indoor public places can reduce the risk of infection, both from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, by blocking respiratory particles that can spread the disease. .
“Wearing a mask in indoor public places, among other safety measures, effectively slows the spread of respiratory viruses that make children and the elderly very sick,” according to the California Department of Public Health.
Masking can also “significantly slow the spread and protect babies and young children who lack immunity and are too young to wear a mask themselves,” according to the department. wrote on Twitter this week.
Sleep, exercise and manage stress
As Gonzales noted, “During the vacation period…we tend to get very busy with work, and with that surge we have a lot of inactivity and stress.”
“And what we know from studies of medical students before finals and with marathon runners is that stress – whether it’s mental stress or physical stress – increases your risk of being infected with respiratory viruses. And that risk goes up two to three times,” Gonzales said.
He suggested making sure to practice these good health habits:
• Have plenty of sleep.
• Be physically active.
• Manage your stress.
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Eat nutritious foods.
Vitamin C could help
Vitamin C may help prevent infections.
Gonzales said he was a long distance runner and that 50-70% of the time when long distance runners get colds and flu it was after big events.
“Randomized trials show that 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, once a day, can help cut that risk in half,” Gonzales said. “And then there were also studies of vitamin C in people, before the finals, who were sleep deprived and under a lot of stress, to show that it helps with that as well.”