Kern County reports 12th and 13th flu-related deaths

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The death toll from "influenza-like illness" grew Friday in Kern County. The count now stands at 13.

The Kern County Health Services Department confirmed two additional deaths and an increase in flu-related hospitalizations from 79 people to 92. The department blamed "late reporting" for the dramatic rise in reported hospitalizations. Some of the newly reported cases were actually people who were hospitalized in late December, the department said.

Only 10 people had gotten a flu shot of the 92 hospitalized for flu-like symptoms.

Many of the flu deaths are from the H1N1 strain of the virus, with victims between 22 and 62 years old.

The health department is categorizing all of these reported deaths and hospitalizations under the banner "influenza-like illness," because they are suspected flu cases that have not all been confirmed.

The health department said people can still protect themselves by getting flu vaccinations. Officials also reminded people to cover their coughs, wash their hands and stay home if they are sick.

Flu shots are available at most local pharmacies on a walk-in basis. They are also offered for $9 at the health department, 1800 Mt. Vernon Ave. The clinic hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.