LIHU‘E — The state’s Department of Health is encouraging people to get their flu vaccines by the end of October.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, taking steps to prevent influenza is more important than ever, the Dept. of Health states in a September 14 press release. Influenza is a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization, and even death, and share symptoms similar to those with the novel coronavirus.
“Flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths on the health care system,” DOH Immunization Branch Chief Ron Balajada said. “Getting your flu shot also helps to conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.”
The flu is caused by the influenza virus which infects the respiratory tract, including nose, throat, and lungs. Unlike other viral respiratory infections such as the common cold, the flu can cause a more severe illness annd possibly life-threatening complications.
Symptoms of flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea — similar to symptoms with COVID-19.
On Kaua‘i, the flu immunization vaccine is readily available through an individual’s primary care physician, medical clinics, and most pharmacies on the island.
Additionally, the Kaua‘i District Health Office (the Kaua‘i branch of the Department of Health) announced its DOH free flu vaccination Stop Flu At School program for students of participating public and charter schools, and those students who have turned in a consent form to their school, and made appointments.
“Each (flu) season, approximately 80 percent of flu-associated deaths in children take place in young people who have not been fully vaccinated against the flu,” states an informational flier on the SFAS
Appointments can be arranged by calling 241-3410 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, said Blanca Gil Lopez, the Kaua‘i District Health Office Health Educator and Section Supervisor. There will be no walk-ins, and students need to have their school identification. All of the necessary protocols, including the use of face masks and social distancing, will be observed at the clinics.
Free SFAS clinics will be located at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall from Oct. 5 through Oct. 30. This site will be open from 1 to 6 p.m., Mondays to Fridays.
Another site will be set at the Kilauea Neighborhood Center, Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon.
On Oct. 24, a SFAS clinic will be available at the Hanapepe Neighborhood Center from 9 a.m. to noon.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for all individuals who are over 6 months old, and especially recommended for high-risk persons, including young children, pregnant women, people 65 years and older, and people with certain chronic health conditions. The flu shots are particularly important to decrease risk of severe flu illnesses.
Flu vaccinations work to protect your health, and the health of your family members and community as well, the DOH said. Getting vaccinated provides protection to those around you who may be at high risk of severe illnesses, including those who may be too young to be vaccinated, and those with medical conditions who cannot be immunized.
In addition to getting vaccinated, the DOH encourages the public to continue frequent hand washing, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, physical distancing, covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing, and staying home from work, school, and social gatherings when ill.
“We can prevent both influenza and COVIDf-19 together by continuing to follow safe practices to prevent the spread of germs,” Balajadia said. “Remember to also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, and to frequently clean and disinfect commonly-touched surfaces and objects like doorknobs, light switches, and cell phones.”
The CDC reports that from Oct. 1, 2019 to April 4, 2020, there were between 410,000 and 740,000 flu hospitalizations, and between 24,000 and 62,000 flu deaths in the United States.