DOH: Everyone needs to get a flu shot

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald A sign in front of Kaiser Permanente in Hilo last week reminded patients to get their flu shots.

The state Department of Health “is urging all eligible individuals to get a flu shot by the end of October.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, taking steps to prevent influenza “is more important than ever,” the department said Monday in a news release.

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The flu is a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and death.

“Flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system,” said DOH Immunization Branch Chief Ron Balajadia. “Getting your flu shot also helps to conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine for all individuals who are older than 6 months old.

Vaccination of high-risk people — including young children, pregnant women, those who are 65 years of age and older and people with certain chronic health conditions — is particularly important to decrease risk of severe flu illness.

From Oct. 1, 2019-April 4, 2020, there were between 410,000 and 740,000 flu hospitalizations and between 24,000 and 62,000 flu deaths in the U.S.

Symptoms of flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea — similar to symptoms seen with COVID-19.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the DOH encourages the public to continue frequent hand washing or use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, physical distancing, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing and staying home from work, school and social gatherings when sick.

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“We can prevent both influenza and COVID-19 together by continuing to follow safe practices to prevent the spread of germs,” Balajadia said. “Remember to also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, and to frequently clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and objects like door knobs, light switches and cellphones.”

For more information about the flu, visit https://health.hawaii.gov/docd/flu/.

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