Flu fight

You can count the steps to avoiding the flu on one hand, and keeping those fingers clean in both hands.

“It’s really important to wash your hands properly,” said Ron Balajadia, immunization branch chief with the Hawaii Department of Health. “For how long? Hum the song ‘Happy Birthday’ and once you complete the song, that’s enough time.”

Along with proper hand washing, experts recommend covering sneezes and coughs with an elbow instead of your hands; avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose; staying home if you are sick to avoid spreading germs; and getting vaccinated.

“If we do all of those five things, the likelihood of us getting sick is reduced,” Balajadia said. “First and foremost, it’s getting your vaccine.”

Every year in mid-August the next round of flu shots, crafted by private manufacturers, hits the market. Last year those vaccinations garnered companies around $1.6 billion in revenue in the United States, according to a 2015 report from industry leader IMS Health.

For the 2015-16 season, those private manufacturers distributed approximately 146 million doses of flu vaccine, as of February, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Each round contains a brand-new vaccine, formulated with the current flu strains that are circulating through the population.

CDC recommends everyone aged 6 months or older to get that shot before the end of October, and DOH is on board with that recommendation.

“We strongly recommend that people get their vaccines, and in this particular case, getting influenza (immunization) and getting it every year,” Balajadia said.

It takes about two weeks for the patient’s immunity to the flu to build up after the vaccine, according to the CDC.

Nearly half, 46 percent, of Americans over the age of 18 say everyone in their family gets vaccinated for the flu, according July online survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CVS Pharmacy, which owns Longs Drugs in Hawaii.

Longs offers flu shots at all of their locations, and is one of many businesses on Kauai that offer flu vaccinations, including Times Market stores, Foodland stores, Safeway, and the hospitals and clinics on the island.

Flu immunizations are available at the drop-off window of the Longs pharmacies as a convenient way to squeeze a shot into your busy day, according to representatives from the company.

“We understand that while most Americans intend to get themselves and their family vaccinated against the flu each year, lack of convenience often prohibits them from accomplishing their goal,” said Papatya Tankut, vice president of pharmacy affairs at CVS Health. “That’s why we’re making it easier than ever to get the whole family vaccinated at their local (Longs Drugs).”

Hawaii happens to be a place where flu season is year-round, according to Balajadia, because of the heavy flow of travel through the islands, but he expects to see a spike in flu cases about a month after the Mainland’s flu season begins.

“We get a lot of people from different places in the world and when they’re sick they bring what they have,” Balajadia said. “But I don’t think we’ve been seeing as many cases so far, usually we’re about a month behind what happens in the continental U.S.”


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