COVID-19, Flu and Valley Fever Cases Expected to Increase
Last updated 11/11/2023 at 1pm | View PDF
Tulare County has been seeing an increase in COVID-19 activity in late summer/early fall, according to Dr. Sharon Minnick, senior epidemiologist, Tulare County Public Health.
"As of late September, the variants that seem to be increasing the most are EG.5 (Eris) and XBB.1.16 (Arcturus), but these have both been found in California all summer," she said. "Historically, large surges have been associated with the sudden rise of a brand new variant, which is very hard to predict."
During the 2022-2023 flu season (October 2022 to September 2023), there were 14 deaths associated with influenza, two deaths associated with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and 85 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Tulare County. The proportions of deaths that occurred in those 65 years and over were: 86% for influenza, 100% for RSV, and 84.7% for COVID-19.
Vaccines are available and recommended for those at risk of these respiratory viruses.
Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone six months of age and older. There are high-dose flu vaccines specifically for people ages 65 and older to provide better protection.
There is a new RSV vaccine to help protect adults ages 60 years and older from severe RSV illness.
An updated COVID-19 vaccine currently available is recommended for everyone ages five years and older. This updated vaccine is to provide better protection against the newer COVID-19 strains, similar to how the flu vaccine is updated every year.
"Antiviral treatments are available for influenza and COVID-19 and can be quite effective at preventing severe disease when started early in the course of illness," said Dr. Minnick. "People at high risk for severe disease, including those ages 65 and older, should ask their health care provider about antiviral treatments if testing positive for flu or COVID-19."
Currently, California residents can receive free telehealth visits to discuss antiviral treatment for COVID-19 and receive prescriptions if appropriate by visiting https://sesamecare.com/covidca or by calling 1-833-686-5051.
The combination of vaccines and antiviral treatments can help to prevent severe illness and reduce the burden on our hospitals and emergency departments during the respiratory virus season. Families can help protect their oldest and youngest members from serious illness by getting vaccinated.
Currently, the number of Valley fever cases reported this year is tracking similar to last year 229 cases between January and September. However, since reporting for cases takes time for people to get tested, diagnosed and reported, the number for this year is expected to increase.
"We don't know yet how many that will be, but usually cases are highest during the driest months of the year – from August until the rains start later in the fall." Minnick said.