Stay vigilant against
the flu bug

Health officials warn that influenza
strains occur year-round

Residents should not let their guard down against flu bugs, state health officials warn.

The season began earlier than usual this year, and doctors monitoring flulike cases report they are declining, said Janice Okubo, state Department of Health spokeswoman.

But that does not mean the flu season is over, she stressed. Influenza occurs year-round, and typically, in Hawaii, a second wave of activity flares with different flu strains, she said.

Last year, the peak flu season was in February and March.

Dr. Walter Orenstein, National Immunization Program director, noted in a satellite broadcast that "influenza causes more deaths than prostate cancer ... more deaths than AIDS annually, and we have a simple intervention: vaccination."

Health Department clinics statewide are offering flu shots to anyone who wants flu protection, Okubo said. Doctors who do not have flu vaccine can send patients to one of the state clinics for a flu shot.

Residents who do not have a doctor or insurance to cover a flu shot can call 211 to locate a free clinic in their area.

A new nasal spray flu vaccine, FluMist, may be appropriate for people between ages 5 and 49 who are healthy. See to find a doctor with the spray vaccine, if your doctor does not have it.

Okubo said the vaccine protects against three flu viruses, so even people who have had flu this year should get vaccinated because it might prevent a different strain of virus.

For example, she said, most flu cases have been caused by the A virus, but B viruses are beginning to be seen.

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