Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 |
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While COVID-19 cases on the Big Island are slowing down, influenza cases may be on the rise in West Hawaii.
“After two years of negligible flu cases in our community, we are experiencing an uptick in the number of positive flu cases in our emergency department,” said Judy Donovan, director of marketing and strategic communications at Kona Community Hospital.
However, state health officials said that despite the hospital’s statement data shows there has not been an increase of influenza cases across the island.
“The Hawaii Department of Health has not documented an increase in influenza cases or hospitalizations on Hawaii Island,” said Katie Chang, interim communications director at the Department of health. “Many of the common sense we have taken to prevent COVID-19 also protect you from influenza. We encourage all Hawaii residents to continue to stay home if you are sick, practice good hand washing, and get vaccinated.”
Data from the Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital showed similar trends to the state.
“Data from March and April data so far this month show that flu does not seem to be in an issue right now at QNHCH,” reported Lynn Scully, spokesperson for the Waimea-based hospital.
Influenza infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs) and usually comes on abruptly, according to the DOH. Symptoms include: nonproductive cough, sore throat, fatigue, body aches, headache, and runny nose.
Seasonal influenza viruses circulate in Hawaii year-round, but are most common during the fall and winter months. Yet, due to a high volume of tourists and travelers, Hawaii’s influenza trends during any given year may be very different from that on the United States mainland or other parts of the world, according to the DOH.
According to the state’s most recent weekly Influenza/Respiratory Disease Surveillance Report dated April 8, there have been 132 cases of influenza since the start of the flu season in October statewide. During the week of March 22 to 26, 21 of the 1,063 tests were positive for influenza.
Notably, during 2021, one hospital on the Big Island went nine months without any flu cases.
“That’s highly unusual,” said Chad Shibuya, director of infection at Hilo Medical Center. “Normally, we do see flu cases throughout the year. It goes to show that the measures we have in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19 also work to prevent the flu from spreading.”
The news comes as mask mandates on the Big Island have been lifted, as well as travel restrictions for newcomers.
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