Getting a cold during the winter is a common problem everyone experiences. Despite the focus on the pandemic and preventing the spread of COVID, it’s important to highlight flu prevention and to stay healthy during this season.
“When it comes to preventing illness, it is beneficial to have good health habits such as getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating nutritious food,” stated Michelle Corson, the Program Manager/Public Relations Officer of Kern County Public Health Services Department.
Kern Sol News reached out to the Kern County Public Health Services Department to learn more about the best ways to stay healthy during this season.
Q: What flu and cold rates did we see in the winter? Did the increase or decrease from previous years? Had the severity of the flu changed?
A: “Flu is only reportable for deaths of people under 18 years of age. The cold can be caused by many different viruses; the only one of which is reportable is RSV and that is only for deaths in those under 5 years of age. Because of this local data, exact case counts are not available. However, the state does monitor flu and RSV rates statewide. Rates of RSV and Flu were much higher than the previous two seasons as measured by the percent of positive tests; however, their max values so far this season are like seasons prior to 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. The primary difference is rates increased to high levels this season much earlier than is typically seen. The severity does not appear to differ from previous seasons. Severe illness has occurred earlier in the season than previously seen, but this is due to cases rising earlier than typical.”
Q: How has COVID and isolation impacted the flu rates in Kern County?
A: “COVID protection measures, such as wearing a mask or staying home when sick, are likely large contributors to the lower rates seen in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 flu seasons as these measures are effective against the flu as well.”
Q: What can we do to protect ourselves from getting the flu?
A: “Vaccination remains one of the best tools for preventing flu. Even when the vaccine does not stop an infection from happening it can reduce the severity of the illness. Other measures include avoiding close contact with ill individuals, staying home when you are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, frequently washing hands, and not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.”
Q: What are you seeing surrounding the “flu-rona” and the tripledemic? Have the hospitalizations increased this season? Is there a difference in severity between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients?
A: “High rates of COVID, flu and RSV in the community had an impact on hospitalizations. While there has been no indication that any of these three illnesses have resulted in more hospitalizations than normally seen, the fact that all three are widely circulating in the community caused an increase in hospitalizations. Vaccination remains the best way to reduce the severity of COVID. The most recent data update from the CDC shows that in November of 2022, hospitalizations among adults 18 and older who were unvaccinated were 16 times higher than those who were vaccinated and had the most recent booster.”