Hawaii health officials prepare for what could be the worst flu - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

It's flu season — and this could be the worst one Hawaii sees in years

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Nationwide, this flu season is being called one of the worst on record since 2009, and Hawaii health experts say the state is already seeing a spike in cases here at home. 

Doctors at The Queen's Medical Center say the emergency room has been packed. 

"We're very busy. I think most of the hospitals in Honolulu have been very busy to the point at times we we're stretched. The ERs on Oahu were closed to ambulances periodically and most of this is related to increased flu activity," said Dr. Rick Bruno, who works in the emergency department at Queen's. 

Bruno says the surge in flu cases came suddenly. 

"Most of the flu symptoms we're seeing are classic: cough, fevers, body aches, fatigue, and tends to complicate underlying medical conditions," said Bruno. 

Forty-six states, including Hawaii, have already reported widespread flu activity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

While the flu has already been linked to tens of thousands of hospitalizations on the mainland -- even a dozen deaths -- the state Health Department says it's still too soon to know exactly what the impact will be like here at home.

The state's epidemiologist says Hawaii will typically start to see more cases in the coming weeks. 

"Right after the holidays is generally around the time we start to see pickup in activity," said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist. 

Health experts say this year's dominant strain of flu called H3N2 is unfortunately one of the nastiest because it tends to cause severe illness in people and historically vaccines have not been as effective against the strain. 

Park still urges residents to get the vaccine because she says some protection is better than none. 

"Even with challenges around flu vaccine, it's still your best method of prevention and definitely for those who are at risk for severe illness," Park said. 

Other ways you can help prevent the spread of the flu -- diligently wash your hands and stay at home if you are sick. 

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