The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported Friday the death of an 82-year-old woman with significant underlying medical issues and complications associated with the H1N1 flu.

The woman had been hospitalized since early October.

“We send our thoughts and sympathies to the family of the deceased,” interim department director Michele Mickiewicz said. “These unfortunate deaths are a reminder that pandemic H1N1 is present in our communities, and people are encouraged to continue taking steps to prevent spreading and/or becoming ill with the flu.”

When healthy people have flu symptoms (including a fever and cough), they are advised to stay home, get plenty of rest and drink clear liquids. Within a few days, these individuals are likely to recover without any medical treatment or hospitalization.

When people have chronic medical conditions, are pregnant, are medically fragile or when children younger than age 2 have flu symptoms, they are advised to contact their doctor right away as treatment may be initiated. Medical professionals also suggest everyone regardless of age or medical history contact their doctor if their flu symptoms begin to get better and then worsen.

With an increase in the number of severe cases of H1N1 in the county, many residents are asking about the availability of H1N1 vaccine. There has been a delay in delivery of the H1N1 vaccine. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it expects there will be enough vaccine for everyone, it will be delivered over a period of many weeks. As a result, the vaccine at first will be targeted to those at high risk for complications from the flu.

The department will publish a schedule of vaccine clinics as soon as sufficient H1N1 vaccine is received.

Click here for more information or call 888.722.6358.

— Susan Klein-Rothschild is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.