27 flu related deaths statewide so far this season

BAKERSFIELD, CA - Our winter chill, followed by these storms isn't making matters any better for anyone fighting the flu. Now we've learned just how hard the virus is ripping through the Golden State. 

While we expect flu season every year, this year it came sooner than normal. This could mean two things:either the season will end earlier than usual-or it'll be a longer more severe flu season than anyone hopes or anticipates. 

This flu season, health providers got an unwelcome surprise: flu season one month early. According to the state department of health, the wave of the virus usually doesn't start until December, but this year it started going around in November. 

"The California Department of Public Health has determined that the flu is widespread throughout the state, and this has resulted in 87 hospitalizations that's as of December 30, and now as of January 4, new data shows 27 fatalities in the state. Three of those hospitalizations are Kern County residents", said the director of Kern County Public Health, Matt Constantine.  

It's too soon to say if this flu season is worse than others because we're still in the midst of it, but state health officials say 27 statewide deaths is higher than normal.
Kern County Public Health also presented data that shows there's a significant uptick in kids absent from school in December compared to prior flu seasons. 

But the most surprising data was the increase in ER visits for the flu last months compared to what we usually see that time of year. 
"What we're seeing right now is more illness than we typically see most seasons at this point in the year, it's not exclusive it's not the first time we've had an early flu season but this is the first time in recent years", said manager of epidemiology, Kimberly Hernandez. 

Experts say it's possible the numbers are higher because flu season started early this year-but it's just too soon to know for sure. 

For now, the best thing to do is get the flu shot. Tt is still highly recommended despite flu season having already began. 

As a reminder, getting the flu shot not only protects you, but also those most vulnerable. Keep in mind, babies under the age of six months aren't able to get the flu shot, so by you getting it, you're helping keep them safe.

Public Health offers the flu shot for $9 at their clinic with no appointment necessary. 

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