16th flu-related death reported in Kern County

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The death toll from "influenza-like illness" inched up this week in Kern County. The count now stands at 16. Fifteen deaths were reported as of last week.

The Kern County Health Services Department announced the new death Tuesday. Health officials plan to release weekly updates of flu-related deaths and hospitalizations.

The number of people hospitalized with flu-like symptoms was only slightly changed from 93 last week to 97 this week.

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.