Santa Clara County health officials confirmed visits for influenza-like illnesses have increased in the county.
In a press conference held Wednesday, health officials explained data shows the weekly percentage of emergency visits has tripled from the 2019-2020 flu season numbers.
The Public Health Department is now adding a new tool to track flu transmission and risk in local communities that spreads through wastewater. This new dashboard is one of the first of its kind in local public health departments across the country.
"Seeing rising levels of flu in wastewater provides us with an early indication of community risk, and alerts health systems to a potential surge in patients," Dr. Sara Cody said.
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Santa Clara County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Sarah Rudman also adds "Wastewater data can help people understand if they need to take additional layers of protection like wearing masks indoors or potentially even changing plans for gatherings."
This winter is the first one Santa Clara County faces flu, COVID and RSV. The latter affects mostly young children and is tied the latest death of a child under age 5 in California.
Experts urge people to get vaccinated against flu, as it offers the best protection against severe illnesses including RSV.
"Our early indications, from the number of patients seeking treatment and hospitalizations for flu and RSV, have our medical staff preparing for an influx of people seeking treatment in our hospitals and clinics,” said Dr. Vidya Mony, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist. “Our care teams are already working to safely meet the needs of our patients."
The wastewater data that will be available via the newly announced tool, will be updated weekly at sccphd.org/fludata and will concentrate in each of the four Santa Clara County sewersheds: Gilroy, Palo Alto, San Jose and Sunnyvale.
There is no vaccine for RSV, but doctors are asking everyone to continue with a couple of the basic precautions many have taken during the pandemic: get your COVID and flu shots, wash your hands, and stay home if sick.