Dec. 1—The Kern County Public Health Services Department, citing the state's Department of Public Health, on Thursday warned that flu, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19 are "circulating at levels higher than usual for this time of year and are expected to continue to increase."

The local public health department reminds people to do the following to help prevent respiratory illness:

—Wash hands often

—Avoid being around people who are sick

—Cover coughs and sneezes

—Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth

—Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces

—Stay home when you are sick

—Get your COVID-19 and flu vaccine

A statement jointly attributed to Ken Keller, president/CEO of Memorial Hospital and BJ Predum, president/CEO of Mercy Hospital, said: "The 'tripledemic' of RSV, influenza and COVID-19 is severely impacting all of our emergency rooms across Kern County. The community can help support our first responders and hospital care teams by knowing when to seek emergency care.

"If you or someone you know is experiencing a medical emergency such as bleeding that will not stop, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain, severe pain or trauma, or a change in mental status such as confusion, get to an emergency room immediately.

"For mild, cold-like symptoms, a visit to a primary care physician's office, urgent care, or telehealth provider. And the best defense against any respiratory illness is to wash your hands frequently, wear a mask, stay home when you're sick, and get the flu and COVID vaccines."

Public Health's news release went on to quote Kern County Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Services Aaron Duncan urging people to understand the proper use of 911.

"Your Kern County firefighters and dispatchers are always ready to answer the call for emergency services. There is an important distinction that happens for actual emergencies versus a call for medical advice," Duncan said. "Just as you rely on your local emergency responders, we rely on our citizens to understand and adhere to this distinction. Please take the time to understand when, and when not, to call 911. This seemingly small act could mean the difference between life and death."

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