PALM SPRINGS ( — A 30-year-old Coachella Valley man was the first person to die of flu this year in Riverside County, public health officials said Thursday.

The man, who tested positive for the H1N1 strain of influenza, died after being hospitalized. Public health officials are investigating whether he had other health issues that may have contributed to his death, according to Jose Arballo Jr. of the Riverside County Department of Public Health.

It’s not known if the man got a flu vaccine, Arballo said.

Flu rates in Riverside County were at expected levels for this time of year for the most part, he said.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, said the flu vaccine was the most effective protection against the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual vaccinations for people 6 months and older.

“Some people wrongly believe that it is too far into the flu season” to get a shot, Kaiser said. “That is not the case. There is still time and the vaccine is readily available.”

To prevent the flu, public health officials recommend washing hands frequently, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and staying home if sick to prevent spreading the virus.

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