Stanislaus County health officials are making a concerted effort to get residents vaccinated against the flu to help ward off a "twin-demic" of influenza and COVID-19.
"We need to work very hard to keep the transmission level low," said Stanislaus County Public Health Officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan during an online community briefing.
It's not unusual for hospitals to see increases of patients during flu season, but this year with COVID-19, those additional hospitalizations could easily stress the area's hospitals and resources.
The symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza are very similar. Both are contagious respiratory illnesses and both can induce fever, cough, sore throat, head and body aches, runny nose and nausea. The loss of smell and taste appears to be solely a COVID-19 symptom.
The CDC said that COVID-19 spreads more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer.
Stanislaus County Health Service Agency Educator Bobby Mosher said the precautions people take to decrease the spread of COVID-19 - wearing a face covering, frequent hand washing, keeping distance from people and avoiding touching the face - will all help prevent the flu virus from spreading as well. Mosher said flu prevention has one aspect that COVID-19 does not and that is a vaccine.
As much of the country is experiencing early signs of a COVID-19 surge, California is remaining steady in the rate of cases as of now. Stanislaus County has been able to decrease the transmission rate to move to the red tier, but so far is not making any progress towards getting to the orange tier, said Dr. Vaishampayan.
As of Friday, Stanislaus County has had 17,509 COVID-19 cases and 396 deaths.