HONOLULU(KHON2) — If it seems like more people are getting sick, it’s not just your imagination. According to experts, we are experiencing an increase in respiratory illnesses and warn it could be a busy flu season.
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Thanksgiving is less than a week away and people are gearing up for get-togethers and family parties. However, the holidays also spell flu season and the health department is already seeing an up-tick in cases.
“We are at a higher rate than we were this time last year so it’s definitely something we’re keeping an eye on,” explained Dr. Caroline Pratt, the Department of Health Disease Investigation branch chief.
According to Pratt, they’ve already recorded 465 positive flu cases and 775 RSV cases this season, but she said there are likely many more that went unreported.
“For RSV we are not at the rates that we were this time last year when we had a really big peak, but we are higher than past years.”
Pratt also added the people most impacted are infants and young children.
“We are seeing kind of the combination of RSV, influenza and COVID kind of all coming into the medical center, some patients with more than one of those illnesses at the same time,” Dr. Jessica Kosut said.
Kosut is the in-patient medical director for pediatrics as well as a pediatrician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children. She added that the situation may get worse before it gets better with the flu season peaking in January and February.
“I suspect, as there’s holiday travel and increased tourism over the holidays and families getting together, of course, I expect to see some of these numbers go up,” Kotus said. “But I and I think it’s going to be a busy respiratory season.”
So when should parents take their child to the doctor?
“When children are working harder to breathe, if they’re not able to feed like they always do, not being able to drink as they always do. And you can tell that they seem like they’re working hard,” Kotus said.
She said that’s when it’s time to call a doctor or go to the hospital.
Up to that point she suggests giving lots of fluids and suctioning the mucous from babies noses to make sure they can breathe freely.
Doctors said the key is really to avoid getting and spreading illnesses in the first place. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself against flu, COVID and RSV is by wearing a mask.
Washing your hands, staying away from others when sick and getting vaccinated are also effective.
“We want to make sure everybody who can get vaccinated is vaccinated to help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed,” Pratt explained.
She said about 35% of people living in Hawaii have gotten the flu shot, which is lower than last year.
And according to the COVID-19 dashboard, only 14% of residents have gotten a COVID booster in the last 12 months.
And although the CDC did roll out the new RSV vaccine, Kosut said it’s only available in limited supply in the islands.
“What we have it for is for moms who are pregnant and for are kupuna, which is great, because that can still be really helpful,” Kosut said.