BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - January and into February is the peak of flu season and the dirty air in Kern County isn't helping those fighting off the virus.
Kern County is known for poor air quality, but the past month has been exceptionally bad.
The Valley Air District told 23ABC this year from December 6th to January 7th there were 17 unhealthy days. During that same time period last season there were zero unhealthy days.
In fact, there were more unhealthy days this year than the entire season last year which was from November through February.
The bad air could make those with illnesses like the flu even sicker.
“They are two different things except they just happen to coincide at the same time so you're basically getting a double dose of the bad thing,” said Bakersfield Allergist Patrick Leung.
While the two aren't directly linked, Leung told 23ABC the stagnant air Kern County has seen this past month can make flu-like symptoms more severe.
"In those situations they do make the people sicker and they can end up in the hospital more. There are studies that say when you have bad air quality you increase a lot of health problems."
That’s why people must take steps to stay healthy and avoid getting the flu since it is already shaping up to be a very active flu season.
“We have a lot of people that have been getting severely ill with influenza and requiring hospitalization,” said Claudia Jonah, Health Officer with the Kern County Department of Public Health Services.
The number of Kern County people in the hospital because of flu-related symptoms is now at 36.
"So we're very concerned that already you know we’re just getting to January, but already we've had this number of cases so we would predict in the next couple of weeks we will see an increase but we are already at an increased level."
Yesterday, the illness also claimed its first victims in Kern County, a 30-year-old woman being treated for the swine flu and a 62-year-old woman.
That is another reminder of just how important it is to get vaccinated.
"It takes about two weeks to get protection but it is well worth doing it."
For more information on clinics to get the flu shot visit www.kernpublichealth.com