Department of Health urges public to get a flu shot

Health officials Monday urged residents to get a flu shot by the end of October to reduce the potential impact on Hawaii’s health care system amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system,” said Immunization Branch Chief Ron Balajadia. “Getting your flu shot also helps to conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.”

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Influenza is a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death, according to the state Department of Health. 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 seen with COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for all individuals who are over 6 months of age. Vaccination of high-risk persons is particularly important to decrease risk of severe flu illness.

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 U.S.

In addition to getting vaccinated, DOH encouraged the public to continue frequent handwashing or use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, physical distancing, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and staying home from work, school and social gatherings when sick.

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“We can prevent both influenza and COVID-19 together by continuing to follow safe practices to prevent the spread of germs,” added Balajadia. “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 door knobs, light switches and cell phones.”

For more information about the flu, visit https://health.hawaii.gov/docd/flu/.

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