Tracking the Flu in Hawaii

November 18, 2010, 2:52 PM HST
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The seasonal flu hits communities across the country every season, and Hawaii is no exception. To help track the cases of flu in the state, the Hawaii State Department of Health has implemented the Influenza Surveillance Program. This program uses a variety of indicators to track influenza year-round on the islands, since the high incidence of tourism and the tropical climate mean an extended flu season that can last all year long. We have information about the Influenza Surveillance Program so you can use this valuable tool to track influenza in your own community.

Why Track the Flu?

Hawaii’s unique distinction as one of the top tourism capitals in the country means that the islands might see very different influenza trends than other states. The peak flu season may come at a very different time and the types of strains that are commonly seen may also vary. Even within the islands, the types of strains found may change from Big Island to Oahu or Kauai. With proper surveillance in place, it is easier for Hawaii health officials understand the impact of influenza in the state and take appropriate steps to improve the health of Hawaiian residents and visitors overall.

Information Used in Surveillance

While not all Hawaiian residents who come down with the flu report their illness to the state, there are resources the surveillance program can use to get an accurate idea of current influenza trends on the islands. These resources might include:

  • Physicians typically report the incidences of influenza they see in their offices
  • Hospitals conduct their own testing and report results to the Department of Health
  • Laboratories confirming flu cases also report their results
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyze influenza trends across the country
  • Schools and long term care facilities usually report suspected outbreaks of influenza
  • The Airport Surveillance Program identifies travelers with flu-like symptoms
  • The Vital Statistics Program tracks deaths related to pneumonia or influenza each week

While these resources do not provide a full picture of the total number of flu cases in Hawaii at any given time, they offer enough information so that the Department of Health can determine current trends in influenza and be alerted to any specific concerns. The data that is collected is primarily used to protect the general public in Hawaii, by informing them of how to avoid getting the flu and how to treat the illness once it starts. Reports are compiled weekly and monthly to help Hawaiian residents stay abreast of the most recent information regarding influenza in Hawaii.

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