Isle officials warn of surge in swine flu cases soon


POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hawaii has been lucky to avoid the upsurge of influenza that has plagued the mainland, but that could end soon, state health officials say.

“;We know it's a matter of time,”; said state epidemiologist Sarah Park, chief of the Health Department's Disease Control Division. “;Indication is, the time is coming very soon, probably in a few weeks.”;

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week listed 46 states with widespread influenza activity, mostly the H1N1 (swine flu) virus. “;This many reports of widespread activity are unprecedented during seasonal flu,”; CDC said.

Hawaii has always lagged behind the mainland, and with people traveling between here and there, an increase in cases is expected, Park said. More complications and deaths also are likely from seasonal or H1N1 influenza, she said.

Hawaii has had 11 deaths associated with H1N1 since the first confirmed cases May 5, including one child. All but one adult and the child had underlying medical problems.

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CDC reported 11 flu-related pediatric deaths last week, with nine confirmed as H1N1 and two influenza A viruses that were not subtyped. Since April, 95 confirmed pediatric H1N1 deaths and another seven pediatric deaths from influenza of unknown types were reported to CDC.

Hawaii is fortunate because H1N1 vaccine is coming in, and it was not available when the virus flared on the mainland, Park said.

At a media conference yesterday, state Health Director Chiyome Fukino and Park urged all islanders to get vaccinated both for seasonal and swine flu. Parents who want their children vaccinated in school H1N1 clinics, following the seasonal flu clinics, must return consent forms by Friday.

Fukino noted some frustration because of limited availability of H1N1 vaccine. Supplies are “;trickling”; into the state and going first to groups at highest risk for flu complications, but the Health Department anticipates enough vaccine eventually will be available for everyone who wants it, she said.

H1N1 priority groups are pregnant women; people who live with or care for children under 6 months old; health care and emergency medical personnel; people 6 months to 24 years old; and those 25 to 64 with health conditions.


Even with vaccine, Park stressed the importance of frequent hand washing and good hygiene to protect against viruses. And people who are sick should stay home to prevent spread of the infection, she reiterated.

Bill Gallo, senior management official of the CDC's Hawaii office, said “;Hawaii is doing a great job”; in preparing for influenza, and the Health Department “;really deserves to be commended for its operation.”;

On the Net:
» For more flu information, see flu.hawaii.gov.