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Seasonal influenza cause emergency medical services and hospital surges

Ambulance services are severely strained by an unprecedented number of flu-related visits to hospitals and emergency rooms. Health officials in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are offering residents advice about the best ways to avoid the flu, when to call 9-1-1 and when to visit the emergency room.

The Riverside County Emergency Medical Services Agency and Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency have reported a significant increase in recent emergency responses and ambulance transports, combined with increased delays at hospitals during transports. As a result, there have been fewer ambulances available to respond to 9-1-1 calls.

During the week of Dec. 24, 2017, calls for ambulance services around Riverside County were more than 31 percent above the weekly average. San Bernardino has also experienced similar increases.

“The flu is definitely spiking in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and our residents need to protect themselves,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer. “If you’re sick, take care of yourself and don’t go to work or school. And if you’re not sick and you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, you should.”

Dr. Kaiser also recommends frequent hand washing and to avoid getting close to people who are sick.

“It’s important to remember that 9-1-1 is for serious or life-threatening medical and psychiatric emergencies,” said Dr. Reza Vaezazizi, medical director for the emergency medical services agencies for Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “This is always true, and especially pertinent in our current situation.”

Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare, San Bernardino County health officer, and Dr. Kaiser urge everyone in the community to visit their primary care physicians and urgent care facilities if they start to experience flu-like or upper respiratory symptoms. The emergency room should only be visited for medical or psychiatric emergencies that are serious or life-threatening.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends flu shots for all persons 6 months and older. Even if the vaccine is limited, immunization can help reduce illness, hospitalization, and death.

For flu shot locations in Riverside County, visit www.rivcoimm.org.

For flu shot locations in San Bernardino County, visit wp.sbcounty.gov/dph/programs/clinics/clinic-locations/.

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