Hospitals filled as Hawaii deals with flu outbreak

Hospitals and clinics are filled and, in some cases, turning away ambulances as they try to deal with an outbreak of flu cases in Hawaii.

Officials at Queen's Medical Center say the hospital has been full for the past week, mainly from an increase in patients with flu-like symptoms.

Health experts are asking everyone to take all the necessary precautions, like getting a flu shot.

"I had a patient just this morning who was positive for Influenza A," said Dr. Kalani Brady from the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Doctors say this is not to be taken lightly. The symptoms are more severe than a sore throat and a runny nose.

"It makes you feel like you've been run over by a truck," Brady said. "You really have a lot of muscle aches, headaches, runny nose, runny eyes, temperature to 101, 102, 103 degrees."

Queen's Medical Center says the outbreak came in earlier than expected. Staffing has been increased to help take care of more patients.

"We've been full for a few days now as far as capacity and it's mainly because all the other hospitals are in the same situation," said Jan Pang, infection control coordinator at Queen's Medical Center.

If you check into a hospital with flu-like symptoms, don't be surprised if you're asked to wear a mask. Officials say it's the best way to stop it from spreading to other patients and other workers.

Officials with the state Department of Health say this should be a wake up call for everyone.

"This is the time we expect to see some pickup of respiratory disease activity, so it's really important for people to remember, how do you protect yourself? How do you protect more importantly people who are vulnerable?" said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist.

Those who are vulnerable include the elderly and infants, as well as people with preexisting medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or cancer.

Health experts say if you are diagnosed with the flu, you should stay home to keep it from spreading.

This year's flu shot may not be as effective as in the past, but Park says it's still important to get it, because it will help with other strains of the virus.

"Especially here in Hawaii, we see the flu year-round and so the vaccine is not just effective against what's going on now, it can potentially be effective against things going on a little bit later in the season," she said.

If you're sick, remember to wash your hands regularly, don't touch your face, and cover your mouth when you're coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.

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