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Ask An Expert: Questions about COVID-19 and staying healthy during flu season

It's not too late to get your flu shot!

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Flu season is upon us, but what does that look like for us in Hawaii? What about during this time of COVID-19, and what can we do to stay healthy? These are your questions that HI Now host Kanoe Gibson is asking Dr. Melinda Ashton from Hawaii Pacific Health in today’s Ask An Expert.

“Flu season refers to the idea that there’s a time of year that influenza is more common,” says Dr. Ashton. “In Hawaii, we always have a slightly different season than other parts of the country.”

This year, Dr. Ashton says we have not yet noticed the flu, and it’s not certain whether we will have a flu season. This is consistent with other countries in the southern hemisphere where the flu has almost disappeared. This is because people are doing a good job of wearing their masks, washing their hands, being socially distant, and staying out of large groups. These are all things that help to stop the spread of COVID-19, but they work to help prevent the flu as well.

“It’s not too late to go out and get a flu shot if you haven’t gotten one yet,” says Dr. Ashton. “The CDC came out with recommendations that say not to wait… Immunize everybody you can as soon as you can!”

Dr. Ashton says a busy flu season often leads to more people in hospitals. At the same time, there’s also concern that COVID cases will increase. The combination together could be really problematic for the healthcare system.

“There are a couple of symptoms that are very specific to COVID-19 that we’ve learned about which make it obvious that it’s not the flu,” says Dr. Ashton. “Those are the loss of the sense of taste or the ability to smell. But headaches, fever, body aches, fatigue, sore throat, couch, all of those things are common between both viruses.”