H1N1 virus believed responsible for deaths of two women, Department of Public Health says.

Kern County Public Health Officer Dr. Claudia Jonah announced the county’s first flu-related casualties Tuesday.

A 30 year-old female Kern County resident died after being hospitalized with the H1N1 flu virus.

The female had other underlying conditions which may have put her at risk for severe H1N1 illness, the Kern County Department of Public Health said.

Furthermore, the DPH reported, a 62 year-old female hospitalized with influenza-like symptoms passed away Tuesday.

While test results confirming H1N1 are pending, its seems very likely this second death is also flu-related. Health officials will not be releasing the identities of the patients.

“It is with regret that I inform our community that two of our members have died from influenza or influenza like illnesses.” Dr. Jonah said. “Flu, including the H1N1 strain, is present throughout our community. The vast majority of flu cases experience mild or moderate illness and recover. Tragically, in these cases, these individuals did not recover.”

There have been several influenza deaths in California in recent weeks. There have also been 30 hospitalizations to date in Kern County due to influenza like illness. The Kern County Department of Public Health Services is coordinating with state and federal agencies in conducting flu surveillance and implementing measures to reduce the impact of the flu virus.

“The peak of the flu season is usually late January through February, so there is still time to benefit from a flu vaccine. With the exception of one, all reported local hospitalized cases had not received their flu shot”, reports Dr. Jonah.

The flu vaccine is available in Taft through private physicians or the Westside Urgent Care, 100 East North Street.

An annual flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against the flu. It is also important to practice the three “C’s” of disease prevention in an effort to help prevent the spread of germs:

•Cover your cough

•Clean your hands

•Confine sick people at home

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please call your healthcare provider.

•A fever higher than 100F and a cough and/or sore throat.

•Shortness of breath.

• Have had contacts with a confirmed influenza case.

• Are in a high-risk setting for transmission (e.g. school, prison, camp, or other residential institution).

• Are part of a cluster with influenza-like illness or symptoms.

People experiencing flu-like symptoms should stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.

For more information, please call 661-321-3000.

You may also visit the Kern County Department of Public Health Services’ website at www.co.kern.ca.us/health.