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SACRAMENTO – Given a rise in respiratory illnesses and the increase from medium to high levels of flu across the state, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is expanding its no-cost testing program for COVID-19 to include flu testing at the state’s COVID-19 testing sites.
“Respiratory infections are spreading quickly now and could continue throughout the winter. I urge everyone six months of age and older to get vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 as soon as possible,” said State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director, Dr. Tomás Aragón. “And should you become ill, please promptly seek testing and appropriate treatment.”
“Older adults, immunocompromised individuals, young children and pregnant persons are at highest risk for complications of respiratory viruses. Getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines beforehand, and treatment if you become ill, can help reduce severe illness. It takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity, so don’t delay getting vaccinated.” said Dr. Aragón.
Beginning this week, people who are showing signs of illness will be able to test at state testing sites for both COVID-19 and flu. Test results will take about 30 minutes and help people determine the best course of action to take to feel better. Those who test positive for COVID-19 can immediately see a telehealth provider to discuss COVID-19 treatments. If it is appropriate for the patient’s condition, COVID-19 treatment medications will be available onsite at no cost to the patient. A positive influenza test will help patients work with their own medical provider to determine appropriate steps to alleviate symptoms and whether they need to take antiviral medication for influenza.
There are more than 100 state testing sites operating across California. To locate a testing site and book an appointment, simply search for your nearest location online at MyTurn.ca.gov/testing. Walk-in testing is also available.
Antiviral medications are available to treat both COVID-19 and influenza. For COVID-19 treatment, contact your medical provider or call California’s COVID-19 hotline (1-833-422-4255). For influenza treatment, which is particularly important for those at high risk of complications, please contact your medical provider to discuss appropriate options.
In addition to testing, CDPH encourages Californians to take steps to prevent getting or spreading the flu.
- Take time to get a flu vaccine. CDPH recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
- Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs. These include simple steps like avoiding close contact with others who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, wearing a mask, washing hands often, and disinfecting commonly used surfaces.
- Take time to practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
If you or your loved ones do get the flu, however, consider these tips for caring for those with influenza.
- Stay home and avoid contact. If you get sick with flu symptoms, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Most people with flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs.
- If in a higher risk group, contact your health care provider. If you have symptoms of flu and are in a higher-risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider.
- Take antiviral medications if prescribed. There are drugs your doctor may prescribe for treating flu called “antivirals.” These drugs can make you better faster and may also prevent serious complications.
- Visit the emergency room only when necessary. Most flu cases are mild and do not require emergency care. However, if you have emergency warning signs of flu sickness or are at higher risk of flu complications, you should go to the emergency room. See a list of emergency flu symptoms here.
- Stay home at least 24 hours after fever is gone. Stay home, avoid close contact with others, and get plenty of rest until fever symptoms have been absent for 24 hours without use of fever-reducing medicine.
While good health habits like those listed above can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses, the single best way to reduce the risk of serious complications from seasonal flu and COVID-19 is to stay current on vaccinations. For more information on preventing respiratory viruses this winter, follow Dr. Aragón’s Top Five Tips to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness.