The state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) weekly report released on Wednesday notes that 54 people have now died during the flu season that began in late September. 27 people had died at this same point last year. The DHEC report notes 51 of the 54 deaths are victims age 50 and above, with the vast majority of those being at least 65 years old.
DHEC did say the number of positive flu tests during the week ending Jan. 10 fell by more than a third, from over 6,300 cases the previous week to slightly above 4,000. The number of reported hospitalizations also dropped significantly from 472 to 275 cases during that same span.
Despite the downturn, the virus is still considered “widespread” in South Carolina and the number of cases is still comparatively high.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that this year’s influenza vaccine was only 23 percent effective. CDC officials said experts incorrectly guessed the predominant flu strain this year. As a result, the mutated H3N2 strain was not included in the batch formulated last year. Health officials still recommend that the public — especially children and the elderly — get vaccinated, as even the weaker vaccine will lessen the flu’s effects if a person does become infected.