Flu turns deadly in Waipahu, vaccinations key

A deadly case of the flu has been reported in Waipahu. The state Dept. of Health says the person who died was one of several patients at a dialysis center who contracted the influenza virus.

So far, the department says there have been 165 deaths during the flu season that were caused either by the influenza virus or pneumonia.

“When you have a medical issue, especially a kidney dialysis issue, things aren’t working properly,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “You’re kind of starting with — if you’re lucky — half the deck or maybe less to try and fight that infection.”

Park says many of the deaths have been linked to the H1N1 virus, the deadly form of influenza that was prevalent in 2009.

“It’s very obviously unsettling and surprising, but if you consider again what the virus is we’re talking about, it’s a good reminder again that it’s never too late to get vaccinated,” Park said.

Also surprising are the cases of flu this season. The CDC says the virus has hit the younger and middle-aged groups much harder than in previous years. In the past young children and seniors aged 65 and older were more vulnerable. This year, adults between ages 18 and 64 make up 61 percent of those hospitalized from the flu. That’s nearly double what it’s been in the past three flu seasons. People in that age group tend to feel invincible.

Mary Rose Cacchione said, “I haven’t gotten the flu since I was a child, so I don’t see a need to get it right now.”

Pharmacists says the flu shot is still widely available and getting the shot will not make you sick. “There’s nothing in the vaccine that will cause you to catch the flu,” said Jason Castro of Mina Pharmacy. “The only way you can get the flu is if you caught it from somebody.”

Experts say the flu season in Hawaii can be year-round because of all the visitors that come out here regularly.

Health officials recommend the following tips:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Stay home if you’re sick
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