Santa Clara County experienced a triple health threat this winter — flu, a respiratory virus and COVID-19 — but county officials and medical experts said overall infections remain low and are subsiding.
The county's seven-day rolling average of COVID cases is 238 as of Wednesday compared to 5,308 this same time last year, according to the county dashboard.
Roger Ross, a county health department spokesperson, said the county continues to monitor COVID infections in wastewater because the numbers on the dashboard may not be telling the real story. He said this may be due to fewer people reporting positive test results.
By monitoring virus levels in wastewater, officials can get a better handle on infection rates and potential new variants, according to the county website. Officials said the omicron variant is still the most dominant variant in the region.
Santa Clara County is also monitoring influenza rates.
Flu season typically occurs between October and May, according to the county. The county influenza report shows higher flu cases this season than in previous years. Cases peaked in December and have continued to decrease over the past few weeks.
Jorge Salinas, a Stanford University assistant professor of medicine, whose focus is infectious diseases, said the high influenza rates during this season are not concerning.
"Every winter we have increasing respiratory viruses, so that's not abnormal, and we can have increases in more than one (virus)," Salinas told San Jose Spotlight. "Every year we talk about the flu going up, but other viruses also go up. This time, there's also COVID in the mix."
This is the first winter Santa Clara County experienced "unusually high levels" of RSV, which does not have a vaccine and mostly affects young children, according to the county. The actual number of RSV hospitalizations are not reported to public health departments.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people recover within two weeks, but the virus can be serious for infants and older adults. Rates of RSV-associated hospitalizations in the United States reached its peak mid-November and have since decreased, according to the CDC dashboard.
Officials said it's rare to contract all three viruses simultaneously and Santa Clara County recommends residents get COVID and flu vaccinations to avoid infection.
COVID and flu vaccinations are available at most pharmacies and health care locations. Santa Clara County residents can also sign up for COVID vaccinations through sccfreevax.org, which includes resources for drop-in clinics.
Salinas said while it's difficult to keep all infection rates low because society has "moved on" from social distancing and masking, preventative measures and vaccinations are key to avoiding infection.
"We're gathering and people are going into restaurants, so transmission will occur," Salinas said. "Things that people can possibly do if they want to avoid getting infected is wearing a mask and getting vaccinated, but the main goal nowadays is to prevent severe disease and infections."
This story, by San Jose Spotlight, was published courtesy Bay City News Service.