Health officials urge public to get flu shots as cases increase

Health officials urge the public to get their flu shots as the number of cases across the state are rising, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

Kern County and California health officials held press conferences Tuesday to talk about the recent widespread outbreak of influenza cases.

During the press conference, Kern County Public Health officials said they were going to begin partnering with hospitals and schools to get real-time data on new cases.

So far, the flu has killed 27 people and has hospitalized at least 87 more, according to the State Health Department. No deaths have been reported in Kern County.

Three people have been hospitalized from the flu in Kern County.

Health officials say it is tough to get exact numbers, because the vast majority of cases go unreported. With this new plan, school administrators will report when a child goes home with flu-like symptoms, thus allowing for more accurate record keeping.

They also say getting a flu vaccine can help reduce a person's chances of catching this year's strain.

“With the increase in influenza impacting many communities across the entire state, it is important to get a flu shot now if you have not done so already,” CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said in a news release. “Although influenza season usually peaks between December and February, flu activity can occur as late as May, which means it is not too late to get vaccinated.”

Emergency rooms have seen an increase in patients across the nation, and officials say this is one of the most powerful flu strains they have seen in years.

Over the past three influenza seasons, Kern County Public Health said 130 schools from the following school districts have participated in the School Influenza Absenteeism Program:

  • Bakersfield City School District
  • Edison School District
  • Greenfield Union School District
  • Kern High School District
  • Maple Elementary School District
  • Maricopa Unified School District
  • Panama-Buena Vista Union School District
  • Pond Union School District
  • Rosedale Union School District
  • Sierra Sands Unified School District
  • Southern Kern Unified School District
  • Tehachapi Unified School District

"We do not collect any information about individual students, on classrooms, on grade sizes, but we look at the school as a whole," said Kim Hernandez, Kern County Public Health epidemiologist.

She said this helps them better track the flu and see how it is impacting the community, so health officials can help lower the risk and monitor the situation.

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