Bay Area wastewater levels high with COVID, RSV and flu after holidays, data shows

Dustin Dorsey Image
Tuesday, January 2, 2024
Bay Area wastewater levels high with COVID, RSV and flu: data
Wastewater data is showing higher-than-normal levels of all three viruses across the Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's not quite "here we go again," according to infectious diseases experts, but the big three -- RSV, flu and COVID -- are on the rise again.

Wastewater data is showing higher-than-normal levels of all three viruses across the Bay Area.

As we ring in the New Year, we turn the page on the holiday season calendar.

But UCSF Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says what's left over are respiratory diseases.

MORE: Santa Clara Co. doctors see increase in RSV wastewater numbers ahead of Thanksgiving

"What we've seen over the past few years is a typical pattern of a 'one-two-three-punch' with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah and then New Year, followed by increase cases in the community and spillover in the hospital," Chin-Hong said.

The new JN.1 variant is rapidly spreading nationwide and the WastewasterSCAN dashboard shows us the Bay Area is not immune.

Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are all showing high levels of COVID, to name a few.

The South Bay city is showing the third highest levels since 2021, according to Santa Clara County Department of Public Health data.

MORE: 230,000 more doses of new RSV immunization for babies are on the way, White House says

"We're still seeing a lot of COVID in the community, and a lot of people are getting sick, and it's causing a lot of disruptions," Chin-Hong said. "It seems like everybody I know, or almost everyone, has some sort of respiratory illness right now, including COVID."

That's what has doctors concerned right now.

It's not just COVID. UCSF Epidemiologist George Rutherford says there are rising trends of influenza and RSV nationwide as well.

"There are substantial increases in respiratory syncytial virus cases and hospitalizations in adults and substantial increases in influenza, in hospitalization, cases and tests in adults and children," Rutherford said.

MORE: Doctor shares how to prevent and treat viruses this 'sick season'

These experts say keeping hospitalizations down now, in spite of rising wastewater, is key.

They suggest getting diagnosed quickly by testing to figure out how to get healthy again.

But to remain healthy from the big three respiratory viruses, they are still suggesting vaccines.

"The current vaccine covers the current variants," Rutherford said. "So, if you haven't gotten the new vaccine, that's been around since October, I would definitely get it. If you haven't gotten the RSV vaccine and you're 60 or older, I'd definitely get it. And if you haven't had the flu vaccine and you're six months old or older, I would definitely get it."

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