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NAHA, Okinawa — Local doctors heaved sighs of relief this week as the long parade of influenza patients through clinics and hospitals waned.

The worst of the flu season on Okinawa, say medical and government officials on the island, appears to have passed.

“Reports we received from the last week shows that the peak season is over,” said Hideto Nakama of the Okinawa prefectural government’s Welfare and Health Department. As of March 27, 15,449 people on the island had been treated for influenza, he said, adding that the peak was in mid-March.

“The data indicates about 69 people on average were treated every day for flu at each medical institution on Okinawa,” he said — almost double last year’s rate, when about 38 people on average were treated daily for flu.

The story at the U.S. Naval Hospital was much different, said hospital spokeswoman Amanda Woodhead.

“We had a little bit of a spike but it was pretty typical for this time of year,” she said. “No major influx of patients was reported. We haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary.”

Woodhead said she did not have statistics on the number of patients the hospital treated for influenza.

She said the hospital and base clinics provided 21,500 flu shots this flu season.

“There are probably two reasons why we did not see a great number of cases,” Woodhead said. “First, this year’s shots gave protection for four different strains of flu, while most countries in Asia used a vaccine that protected against only three strains.

“Also, typically, our population is younger and healthier compared to any typical civilian population,” she said. “And we have a more consistent preventative- care program.”

As the flu season began, it appeared U.S. bases in the Far East would have too little flu vaccine to go around. A shortage of the vaccine in the United States resulted in the military limiting flu shots to active-duty personnel and those defined as high-risk when the shots began in November.

But the shortage eased at most bases by January. The U.S. Naval Hospital on Okinawa opened its stock to all comers in January and had enough to send to Yokota Air Base, which was running low.


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