Flu cases on the rise

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Tandy Newsome, director of quality management at Hilo Medical Center, demonstrates Wednesday how she would give a flu shot at the Hawaii Island Family Health Center in Hilo Medical Center.

Flu activity is increasing in East Hawaii — and statewide.

Hilo Medical Center has seen the number of flu cases escalate during recent months.

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“I think the overall numbers aren’t quite as high” compared to last year, said Tandy Newsome, director of quality management at Hilo Medical Center, but the “season seems to be longer this time.”

The peak in flu activity at HMC last year was in late January or February, while the peak this year — so far — is in March, she said.

The number of confirmed flu cases at the hospital totaled seven in December, 51 in January, 82 in February and 122 so far this month.

Since January, HMC has had one or two people a week actually admitted for the flu; on Monday, there were two patients in the hospital with the flu, Newsome said.

Flu activity, though, is “different every year,” she said. “(We) have to watch it. We’re always a little bit behind the mainland.”

State health officials also are reporting a rise in flu cases statewide, although specific numbers aren’t available.

State Department of Health epidemiologist Sarah Park reminded residents that it’s never too late to get a flu vaccine, but suggested calling ahead to clinics or pharmacies to make sure they have the vaccine on hand.

“Vaccine is still the best method of prevention, and don’t (forget) to cover your cough and sneeze if you do get sick, and keep your germs at home.”

Newsome shared those sentiments, recommending flu prevention measures such as the flu vaccine, hand-washing and avoiding those who are sick.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that from Oct. 1, 2018, through March 9 there have been as many as 29.3 million flu illnesses, 13.8 million flu-related medical visits, 394,00 flu hospitalizations and 35,500 flu deaths.

According to the CDC, influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that can cause mild to severe illness and can even lead to death.

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Symptoms include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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