Five people in San Luis Obispo County have been hospitalized for H1N1 also known as the swine flu. Public health officials say it is a similar strain to the 2009 virus that caused a global pandemic.
"Transmission throughout California is still localized in a regional fashion, heavy transmission has not begun yet as it has in other states but we can pretty much expect it will be," said Dr. Jim Beebe of the Public Health Department.
The virus is similar to the 2009 H1N1 that was first detected in April 2009. According to the CDC millions of people contracted it and thousands died in the U.S. "The virus continually changes, influenza is a bit of a chameleon so the virus strain mutates and is a little bit different then it was in 2009," said Dr. Beebe.
Dr. Beebe said the virus can start off feeling like a cold and can turn deadly. "It's probably the number one cause of mortality in the older age groups, older than the 65 age group," said Dr. Beebe. There are several symptoms to look out for. "Coughs, a fever, a sore throat, are some of the most common ones," said Dr. Beebe. "It can go to a frank pneumonia which may cause a person to be hospitalized."
Public health says it is easy to spread and there are things you can do to protect yourself like simply washing your hands. "People can get vaccinated that's the most important defense that people can do for this virus," said Dr. Beebe. Typically H1N1 significantly affects the very young and old however this particular strain is affecting all ages.
According to the Public Health Department in Santa Barbara County there have been a small number of confirmed H1N1 cases. There have been no hospitalizations or deaths due to the virus.