Hawaii doctors proactive about swine flu

Dr. Roger Kimura
Dr. Roger Kimura
Susan Takayama
Susan Takayama

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii has no confirmed cases of the swine flu.  But despite Hawaii's clean bill of health so far, doctors aren't taking any chances.

The Queen's Emergency Room, as well as primary care doctors' offices, are the front line in the war against this virus.  Many doctors have added additional steps in place to catch patients who have symptoms of swine flu.

Dr. Roger Kimura's job has changed slightly ever since swine flu, or the H1N1 virus started in Mexico.

"I discussed with the staff how to screen people on the phone," Dr. Kimura said. "Which people we may want to take special precautions and care with."

He even has a sign in his waiting room to better screen patients.

"It's making me very nervous," Kaneohe Resident Susan Takayama said. "I'm conscious of when I go out, if I cough, I don't want to be near people. I think they're going to think I have the swine flu. And I don't want to be near people coughing either so hope everybody takes it seriously."

The World Health Organization has been busy, trying to get a handle on this virus.  The Threat Level is at Phase 5, just one below a pandemic level.

"It's going to be difficult to contain," Dr. Roger Kimura said. "It becomes more of a public health issue, getting people to stay here, not going to work."

Although Hawaii has no confirmed cases of swine flu, some believe that could change.

"It's just a matter of time before it reaches Hawaii," Dr. Kimura said. "So realistically anyone who's traveled or had contact with someone who's traveled within seven days of when the illness starts."

Some air travelers in Hawaii have started using protective face masks.

The important thing to remember is that not all masks are created equal. A basic mask does not prevent viruses from passing through. That's why you need a higher grade respirator mask, the N95, to protect yourself from swine flu and other influenza.

Still the H1N1 virus is new and unpredictable.

"No one's even sure if it's going to behave like any other influenza," Dr. Kimura said. "So the incubation period classically for influenza is seven days, no one knows if that applies in this situation."

That's why Hawaii residents are doing what they can to minimize their risk.

"Well, we're not planning to travel anywhere," Takayama said. "We had no plans. We usually go to Las Vegas, but we're not even going there."

Some doctors say they have not seen an increase in the number of patients. Others say this is the longest flu season they can recall.

If the virus reaches Hawaii, doctors say it may change how they see patients; seeing sick patients in the morning and healthy ones in the afternoon, for example.