In all of Los Angeles, there is only one car — a Volkswagen bug — that is decked out with viruses, but not spreading disease, instead it's creating awareness. 

What You Need To Know

  • Flu Bug outreach campaign helps raise awareness about flu and COVID-19 prevention

  • Zachery Gaither drives it all around Southern California to talk with people about staying healthy and getting tested

  • The campaign is sponsored by Quidel, a San Diego-based testing company that offers an all-in-one flu and COVID-19 test

  • You can find out more about the Flu Bug on Instagram @Flubugla

"I raise awareness about flu prevention and now COVID prevention," said Zachery Gaither, who is the man behind the bug’s wheel.

Gaither works for a COVID and flu testing company called Quidel, based out of San Diego. He drives the Flu Bug/COVID Cruiser all over Southern California stopping at parks and parking lots to talk with the public.

"I see all the smiles that this vehicle puts on people’s faces," Gaither said.

He first took the job a couple years ago after his brother, who does outreach for Quidel in Miami, suggested it. When he found out what he would be driving, he had a heart-to-heart with himself.

"Ego, it’s time for you to just go deep down and we won’t talk about this for a while," Gaither said.

What is the most common questions he gets?

"Is your car contagious and is that a COVID car?" he said.

The big virus on the hood of his car is actually H1N1, more commonly known as the swine flu. Gaither said the response has been incredible.

"When I’m cruising around even in a parking lot, I’ll see people pull up their masks or even put their mask on. Give me a thumb up," Gaither said.

Quidel has been running this public health campaign about the flu for years, but switched its focus to COVID when the pandemic began. Still, Gaiter said the message is roughly the same.

"Flu outreach was always about washing your hands properly and regularly, covering your cough properly, and things like that," he said.

After turning a few heads on Hollywood Boulevard, Gaither drove to Griffith Park. It may come as no surprise that it does not take long for him to be noticed. 

"Everybody loves bugs, but I want that one!" said Juan Escamilla, who was visiting from San Jacinto in Riverside County.

For children, he will often hand out mini Flu Bug cars and for the adults, refillable hand sanitizers.

Gaither sees his job as more about educating the public than just pushing his company’s COVID and flu tests, especially since at this point, you still need a prescription to get one. He said people cannot help but take a peek, even if they don’t admit it.

Gaither said that with more places opening up again, it is more important than ever to stay vigilant.

"It really helps have conversations that could be awkward but are necessary," Gaither said.

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