State pushes for flu shots

HONOLULU — The state Department of Health is advising everyone 6 months and older to get a flu shot as soon as possible to protect against influenza.

“Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, and is especially important for young children, pregnant women, seniors 65 years and older, and people with high-risk conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart and lung disease, or a compromised immune system,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.

“The flu can make chronic health problems even worse, and trigger asthma attacks by causing further inflammation of the lungs and airways, while those with chronic congestive heart failure may experience a worsening of their condition,” Park said.

Flu is a serious illness that sickens millions of people and causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control found that, nationally, less than 40 percent of people had received the flu vaccine by early November. While the flu season typically runs from October to May on the Mainland, Hawaii sees flu year-round, so it’s never too late to get vaccinated.

The flu vaccine is available at many doctors’ offices, clinics and pharmacies.

DOH also encourages the public to follow good personal hygiene habits to prevent spreading germs.

Treatment with antiviral drugs, and prescription medicines that can be used to treat illness and reduce complications from the flu work best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, but can still be helpful when given later in the course of illness. People who think they have the flu should contact their healthcare provider for testing and treatment right away.

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