Eight flu patients die in Kern County

By Patric Hedlund

“This flurry of events is catching us all a little off-guard,” said Steve Schilling, CEO of Clinica Sierra Vista, which operates the Frazier Mountain Community Health Care Center in Lebec. He was talking about the Kern County Public Health Department’s announcement that severe flu cases have been pouring into local hospitals in the last two weeks and that flu patients, young and old, have died from both Type A and H1N1 varieties.

By Tuesday, Jan. 14 a reported 58 severely ill influenza victims had been hospitalized in Kern County since two days after Christmas. It is confirmed that eight of those have died.

“Flu is sweeping across the county,” health department spokesperson Kim Rodriguez said. By January 14, of the 58 hospitalized, 39 had to be in the intensive care unit and 31 were put on a ventilator. Of these hospitalized flu patients, 34 had Type A flu and 14 were confirmed to have H1N1 ‘swine flu,’ Rodriguez said.

In a press release from Kern County, the public was advised to secure a flu vaccination if they have not already had one this season. The release said the current flu vaccine “covers Type A, Type B and Type C influenza. H1N1 is one of the strains in the Type A category and there is a match for the H1N1 strain [in the vaccine].”

Rodriguez added that H1N1 is believed to affect younger people, “in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. This is why everyone 6 months and older is encouraged to get a flu vaccine now.”

She said the vaccine “can take up to two weeks to build up your immune system.”

It is also wise to remember, Rodriguez added, that “no vaccine is 100%, but those who get the flu after being vaccinated tend to not have as severe an illness as others who were not vaccinated.”

“This makes it extremely important to practice ‘The Three C’s: Cover, Clean and Confine,’” public health personnel said. The Three C’s stand for:

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 who are sick as well.
Of the 58 people hospitalized in Kern County since December 27, eight have died and 22 have been discharged. The others remain in the hospital.

Where can I get a shot?

As Clinica Sierra Vista’s CEO explained, “We order flu vaccine in the summer, and we begin administering it in the fall. Our supplies now are low.”

But Kim Rodriguez said, “The peak of the normal flu season is still to come. Please encourage your readers to take action.”

The Pine Mountain Club POA already offered flu vaccinations to the community in the fall. They are not planning another clinic.

Schilling said the Lebec clinic will serve registered patients (if you have been in during the past year) on a walk-in basis for a nurse visit and a shot. But he cautions it is always wise to call first. Those with insurance will probably incur no charge.

Schilling said he believes Medicare and Medicaid will cover the full cost. Uninsured patients will be charged $10, the CEO said.

Los Angeles County Public Health Clinics give vaccinations on a walk-in basis at no charge. The Antelope Valley Public Health Clinic (335-B East Ave. K-6, Lancaster 93535 /661-723-4526) is open M-F 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and noon to 3:30 p.m.

In Bakersfield, the Public Health Services Department is offering flu shots for $9 on a walk-in basis, M-F 8 a.m.-4 p.m. until January 31 (closed January 20 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day; 1800 Mt. Vernon Ave., 661-321-3000).

Pharmacies in Santa Clarita and Bakersfield offer flu shots on a walk-in basis, using insurance coverage. Medicare Part B covers it at no cost. Uninsured will pay under $40, CVS personnel said.

This is part of the January 17, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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