Feeling sick? Bay Area doctor suggests calling out from work this tough COVID, flu season

ByLeslie Brinkley via KGO logo
Monday, October 24, 2022
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With the flu, COVID and RSV circulating this upcoming winter season, UC Berkeley epidemiologist says if you have any symptoms, you should stay home.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- One of these days, you're likely to wake up with a cough or a runny nose and in this third winter with COVID-19. With many of us back at work, what should you do if you're sick?

It's getting more complicated to figure out what to consider this cold, flu and COVID season. There are already reports of not only another COVID surge with new subvariants, but also more flu virus circulating.

MORE: 'Triple-threat' illnesses causing kids to pack hospitals nationwide, prompts warning from Dr. Fauci

"You think you've got a cold. Its some kind of bug. It could be COVID, it could be influenza, it could be a respiratory syncytial virus or RSV," UC Berkeley School of Public Health epidemiologist Dr John Swartzberg said. "I think we lived our lives prior to the pandemic, sort of saying 'yeah I've got a cold.' I know it could spread to someone but I'm not very sick. They won't get very sick and go on with their daily lives."

Dr Swartzberg described what has changed. "We have a much more serious virus circulating now than before the pandemic, and I think we have to be more prudent. So frankly, if you're sick, I think you should stay home," he said.

Workers and managers are trying to sort it out. COVID tests are useful if you wake up with a sore throat or stuffy nose, but check the expiration dates - many of the government issued tests are already expired, and the kits are far from foolproof.

MORE: RSV in children: Symptoms, treatment and what parents should know

"If it's negative, then you're not assured you still don't have COVID, particularly if it's early in the illness," Dr Swartzberg said.

Navigating all of this is going to be tricky this fall and winter. Dr. Swartzberg predicts workers will make decisions, and employers will have to make concessions and we will have to rethink what it means to call in sick.

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