The Flu Isn’t Coming to Hawaii. It’s Here.
It’s been a severe flu season on the Mainland, leaving Hawaii residents questioning how bad it will get here. The thing is, the flu is already here.
Unless you’ve been living in an underground bunker, you’ve probably seen TV reports or news stories about the unusually bad flu season the U.S. is currently experiencing.
It’s caused many locals to frantically Google their symptoms at the first signs of fever or stomachache. It’s also been the topic of frequent local news stories: Will Hawaii have a flu outbreak, too?
That’s a question that can’t be really be answered, says state epidemiologist Sarah Park. But, she adds, “We have the flu here. Period. Whether activity is high or low, you’re still at risk if you don’t take precautions.”
The appropriate precautions are exactly what you might expect: Get vaccinated, wash your hands, don’t share dishes and stay home when you’re sick.
Park says the state is experiencing higher cases of flu in “pockets,” such as in nursing homes and pediatric doctor’s offices, which is no surprise as these are the higher-risk populations. (A particular sub-strain of the H3N2 strain seems to be causing this year’s national surge in flu cases, says Park, even though it’s included in the current flu vaccination.)
She adds though, that more people are coming in to see their doctor or going to the emergency room when they feel ill likely because of the continuing media coverage.
“There’s heightened awareness,” she says. “A lot of people are going to see their doctors; a lot of parents are rightfully concerned.”
Kyle Perry, an emergency room physician at the Queen’s Medical Center says he’s noticed more elderly people coming into the hospital with flu-like symptoms. “The illness is particularly severe with those 60 and older, and under 2 [years old],” he says. Getting the flu is even more serious for those with additional complications, such as diabetes or asthma. These are usually the folks that end up getting admitted to the hospital, says Perry.
Hawaii’s peak flu season is from January through March—safe to say we’re already in the middle of it.