State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park (image: Hawaii News Now)
Dr. Robert Ruggieri, Island Urgent Care (image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Flu season is in full swing and Hawaii doctors predict this season may be worse than the last.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports widespread flu activity in 29 states, up from 21 last week.
Hawaii isn't part of that list, but State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said flu cases in the islands are typically linked to outbreaks on the mainland.
"The fact that we're hearing increase of activity in the mainland, really should serve more as an alert to everyone here that we have to make sure to be on our guard," she said.
Last week, the state Department of Health reported flu-like illness outpatient visits in Hawaii were higher than the national baseline.
"We definitely have seen an uptick in flu, especially compared to last year where we had a mild year," said Dr. Robert Ruggieri of Island Urgent Care.
Ruggieri said it's been busier than usual at his Kapahulu clinic. On Friday, he treated a family of three who all came down with the flu.
"They were pretty uncomfortable," he said.
Schools are also on full alert. Voluntary flu shot clinics are underway at more than 240 campuses across the state.
Health officials don't know what exactly is causing the spike in cases, but the CDC said this season is dominated by the strain influenza A (H3), known for its severe effects especially for the young and the old.
"Expect high fever, headache, body ache, fatigue, cold symptoms and sometimes some nausea and vomiting," said Dr. Ruggieri.
Doctors say it's not too late to get vaccinated and always remember to practice good hygiene like washing your hands regularly.
"Flu vaccine is not exactly the most perfect vaccine out there, but it's still something," said Dr. Park.