Winter Viruses on the Rise

Respiratory virus metrics have increased across Los Angeles County in the past week, indicating a steady rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), COVID-19 and influenza (flu) activity. The increases are relatively small and indicator numbers remain well below levels seen last year at this time; however, they clearly represent what appears to be the beginning of the winter virus season.

This week, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) launched the Respwatch Surveillance Dashboard. This dashboard is updated weekly on Fridays and shares information on flu, COVID-19 and RSV, and allows residents to track information in one convenient location. The dashboard includes information on clinical laboratory surveillance, emergency department visits and wastewater concentrations in comparison to previous seasons.

Public Health notes that during this season, vaccination is the best defense against severe illness and hospitalization and is especially important for people who are older or have underlying health conditions. The updated COVID-19 vaccine is available across Los Angeles County. The COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to the flu vaccine, is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. The new vaccine is recommended regardless of previous vaccination status, meaning those with and without previous COVID-19 vaccines should still get the updated 2023-2024 dose.

People who are 60 and older should speak with their provider about an RSV vaccine. RSV vaccination is also recommended for people who are between 32-36 weeks pregnant and immunizations are available for infants under 8 months old.

COVID-19 home tests remain an important tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19 this winter. 

Testing is strongly recommended for people who have been exposed to COVID-19, people who have possible symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough or sore throat, and for those who are attending gatherings or visiting with people who may be more vulnerable to a severe COVID-19 infection, especially people who are over 65 years old.

To avoid spreading another respiratory infection, like flu or RSV, individuals with respiratory symptoms who test negative for COVID-19 should mask indoors while around others. It is most accurate to take a second COVID-19 test 48 hours after the first test if respiratory symptoms persist.

When a person tests negative for COVID-19, yet still has symptoms of a respiratory virus, they may have a flu or RSV infection and should stay home to prevent the spread of illness. For a flu infection, a health care provider can prescribe antivirals, if appropriate, which can reduce the severity and duration of illness.

Adults and children 12 years and older who test or are suspected positive for COVID-19 and who have underlying health conditions or factors that may result in more severe illness from COVID-19 are eligible to take Paxlovid, which must be started within five days of symptom onset. Public Health encourages everyone to speak with their provider about Paxlovid if they test positive.

Paxlovid, the antiviral medication to treat COVID-19, is widely available in Los Angeles County at no cost. Currently there is ample supply of Paxlovid courses, provided through the U.S. government, available at Los Angeles County pharmacies, Public Health Centers and through Public Health telehealth services, provided free to residents through the Public Health Call Center at 1-833-540-0473, open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Public Health Call Center can also answer questions about respiratory symptoms, how to find a Public Health Center, where to get vaccinated or how to get tested and help to schedule vaccination appointments, including in-home vaccinations for people who are homebound.