State health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated against influenza, cover their mouths when coughing, wash their hands, and stay home if they’re sick to protect vulnerable kids and adults.
The Department of Health sent out a statement Monday saying everyone ages 6 months and older should get vaccinated against influenza.
“We here in Hawaii have already been hearing about the heavy flu activity on the mainland,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists Hawaii in the “moderate” category for current influenza-like illness as of Dec. 30. Much of the mainland is seeing “high” reports of flu-like ailments.
Hawaii sees influenza cases throughout the year, Park said, but the season here typically begins to pick up a month or two behind the mainland, usually after the holidays.
Vaccines are available at clinics, pharmacies and doctor offices.
The mainland usually sees an uptick in flu cases in November and December. But Hawaii’s peak season can surge in January, February, March or as late as April, Park said.
That’s why she urges Hawaii residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. It takes about two weeks to build immunity, meaning there’s still time to get vaccinated.
During a telephone interview, Park urged people who come down with the flu to stay home from work, school and errands to protect babies who are too young to get vaccinated, elderly individuals who are at risk and people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma who are more vulnerable to complications than the general population.
Treatment with antiviral drugs is effective, but is best when started within 48 hours of getting sick. Park said people who think they have the flu should get a medical check right away.
In 2015, the latest year available from the CDC, an estimated 557 people in Hawaii died from influenza and its complications.
“Please go get vaccinated,” Park said.
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