One week after Kern County reported its first deaths from influenza, the virus or similar effects has claimed the lives of five more, the most recent one on Monday.
Kim Rodriguez with the Kern County Department of Public Health said early Monday six deaths were confirmed and linked to the flu.
This number was updated to seven later Monday.
Additionally, since Dec. 27, 49 people have been hospitalized, with 30 people admitted to intensive care units with the flu.
“Out of the 30 there was 23 that had to be put on a ventilator,” Rodriguez said by email on Monday. “Half of the patients hospitalized with the flu have H1N1.”
H1N1, or the swine flu, has been identified by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health as the dominant strain.
Rodriguez said the H1N1 strain has hit “middle groups” particularly hard.
“H1N1 effects what were considered the middle group, people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. This is why everyone 6 months or older are encouraged to get a flu vaccine.”
The flu vaccine has the appropriate viral combination to protect against all strains of the flu identified this season, including the H1N1 virus.
“It is important to get your vaccine NOW,” Rodriguez stressed. “The vaccine can take up to two weeks to build up your immunity system to the flu. It is also to remember that no vaccine is a 100 percent but those who get the flu after being vaccinated tend to not see the serve illness that others who were not vaccinated do.”
In Ridgecrest, the flu is making the rounds, according to Sue Lemon, director for Infection Control at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital.
“We are still seeing the flu being transmitted, both on the ER and the patient care side,” Lemon said.
RRH has seen one case admitted to the intensive care unit for flu-like symptoms, Lemon said.
“Fortunately the patient did not need any sort of ventilator support, but was admitted to the ICU,” Lemon said.
But Burroughs High School is yet to see the effects of the flu, at least when it comes to more absences than normal.
“We haven’t noticed any decrease in attendance,” said BHS assistant principal Jill McClelland. “We’re running about 96 or 97 percent, which is actually a little bit higher than normal.”
She said five or so years ago, the schools were hit hard by the flu.
“But we’re not seeing it this year, at least not at the high school yet,” she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Lemon stressed the need for getting a flu shot.
“It’s the best defense against getting the flu,” Lemon said.
It’s more critical this season, given the dominant strain.
“The problem with the strain going around right now is the severity of the illness and the complications that come with having the flu,” Lemon said. “That’s what’s making people so sick they end up in the hospital.”
Statewide, there has been increase, according to Dr. Ron Chapman, head of the CDPH and the state health officer.
“California is seeing an accelerated increase in flu activity over the past few weeks,” said Dr. Chapman. “You can help prevent further spread of the flu by getting a flu shot.”
Flu season peaks in late December or early January for California, but given the spike in hospitalizations statewide, it appears the California hasn’t yet seen the downswing.
“The peak of the normal flu season is still to come,” Rodriguez from Kern County Public Health said.
1. Cover- cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or in your sleeve.
2. Clean: Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
3. Confine: Please stay home if you are ill. Stay away from others that are sick as well.