UCSF doctor urges everyone to get the flu shot as cases are 'raging'

Luz Pena Image
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
UCSF doctor urges people to get flu shot as cases are 'raging'
UCSF's infectious disease doctor is advising people to get the flu shot as cases have reached a concerning point across the the U.S. and the Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Hospitals across the country and the Bay Area are reporting an increase in flu cases.

As COVID, RSV and flu cases are surging throughout the country. UCSF's infectious disease specialist Dr. Monica Gandhi says influenza cases have reached a concerning point.

"I'm talking to the chest radiologist working at the hospital. Very little severe COVID, but flu is coming up and it's raging unfortunately," said Dr. Monica Gandhi, infectious diseases specialist at UCSF.

Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Gandhi tracked data from Europe to get a head start of what the U.S could see in the coming weeks. She is doing the same with this surge.

MORE: Bay Area hospitals putting up overflow tents to deal with surge in pediatric RSV cases

"In Australia, we actually saw this happen in our summer their winter. Over our summer season, they had high rates of influenza. In the U.K. which is really a herald for what happens here - they had higher rates of influenza in the ICU, higher rates of influenza mortality than COVID," said Dr. Gandhi.

We went to two Emergency rooms in San Francisco to see what they are seeing first hand. At Zuckerberg SF General Hospital, Dr. Chris Colwell says cases are fluctuating.

"There are days where we absolutely see more flu than anything else and then the next day we may see more COVID. We are always seeing a fair amount of RSV particularly in the kids," said Dr. Chris Colwell, chief of emergency medicine at SF General.

Luz Pena: "Are you at capacity?"

MORE: Pediatricians break down how to know if your child has the flu, COVID or RSV

Dr. Colwell: "We are at capacity in the sense that we are full and that we are having to hold some patients to wait to get admitted upstairs. But we also have capacity to manage this."

At UCSF Parnassus campus, they are also at capacity, but not overwhelmed. Monday, they had more COVID cases.

"We are also seeing some flu starting to increase. We'll see as the trends continue if we are going to see a huge spike of flu vs. COVID and hopefully not both," said Dr. Jahan Fahimi, medical director of the emergency department at UCSF's Parnassus campus.

The CDC is reporting more influenza cases earlier in the season than they have in last five seasons.

MORE: Is the US facing a potential 'tripledemic' of flu, RSV and COVID-19?

"Our concern is that we've had RSV and COVID and now flu. The combination of all of them like I said, it causes a lot of confusion for a lot of patients. It drives people to seek care and it can overwhelmed the health care system," said Dr. Fahimi.

But what's leading this?

"It's because probably viral interference is happens. As COVID comes down. As our immunity comes up to COVID, the other viruses come in to fill this vacuum. And that is why we are seeing a lot of influenza and RSV," said Dr. Gandhi.

All three doctors agreed, that what is different about influenza this time around is that it normally used to peak in Jan. and Feb. Now we are seeing more flu cases in Nov. They are encouraging the public to get the flu shot now ahead of more family gatherings in the coming weeks.

According to Dr. Gandhi, typically the flu shot antibodies take about a week or two to build up.

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