HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The flu epidemic is getting worse nationwide — and Hawaii is now among the states where flu activity is the highest.
State Health Department officials say there has been a recent spike in the number of patients going to the hospital with flu-like symptoms.
This marks a significant shift in flu activity in Hawaii, which had been the rare exception to an epidemic spreading across the country even in the early weeks of the flu season.
According to the most recent CDC report, Hawaii's flu activity went from moderate to high levels in the week between Jan. 20 and Jan. 27.
Less than two months ago, a previous CDC report indicated Hawaii experienced minimal flu activity while nearly a third of the rest of the country was in the moderate to high flu activity range. CDC statistics now reveal that 42 states and Washington, D.C. all fall within the highest range of flu-activity, and Hawaii is among them.
Each week the state Health Department releases an Influenza surveillance report. The most recent one dated on Feb. 2 shows that 7.3 percent of all outpatient visits to the hospital were related to flu-like illness, which is lower than the previous week but higher than the national baseline. The state analysis also identifies at least 25 flu clusters.
During the third week of January, Health Department officials say roughly 32 percent of tests for influenza viruses have been positive, and the age group that has been impacted the hardest is between 5 to 24 years old.
According to the Influenza Surveillance Report, 15.6 percent of all deaths that occurred in Honolulu during the third week of January were related to pneumonia or influenza. There have been about 192 deaths in Hawaii since the flu season began in early October of last year. However, there have been no influenza-associated pediatric deaths in the state compared to the 53 flu-related pediatric deaths nationwide.
To prevent the flu, officials want to remind everyone how important it is to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze and to wash their hands thoroughly.
Anyone with flu-like symptoms avoid contact with others by staying home from work or school and keep hydrated. Health officials say a person needs to be fever-free without taking medications for at least 24 hours in order to no longer be contagious.
The Health Department is urging anyone 6 months and older to get vaccinated because the flu virus is expected to stick around for weeks.