South Carolina health officials reported this week that 46 South Carolinians have died from the flu so far this season, while hundreds more were hospitalized in the most recent week.
University of South Carolina clinical professor Julie Justo told South Carolina Radio Network the virus is hitting the state hard. “Flu is definitely active, we’re in the middle of a very active season,” she said. “A lot of the flu virus that’s circulating seems to be Influenza (Type) A.”
The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said flu activity has been widespread across the state this month and does not seem to be slowing down. The agency confirmed 22 more deaths since its report last week (although five occurred earlier in the year) and 470 more hospitalizations.
Some reports said the vaccine recommended for this year’s flu is not effective against the dominant strain, Justo said it’s too early to tell.
“We can’t say for sure what the effectiveness is for this year’s flu vaccine,” she said. “We won’t obviously have those numbers until the season is through.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the entire country is in the midst of a severe flu season.
DHEC is encouraging residents to get a flu shot. It takes about two weeks for the body to build up protection after getting the flu vaccine, so the sooner you get the vaccine, the better. The vaccine cannot give itself give you the flu, since it contains virus strains that are not active and cannot produce disease.
Even healthy people can develop complications, including pneumonia, which can cause serious illness and hospitalization or even death. Some people are at higher risk for complications from the flu, especially infants and young children, older adults, pregnant women, and anyone with a chronic medical condition, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. So far, 72 percent of fatalities this season were individuals 65 years and older.
The flu vaccine is available from providers statewide. In addition to DHEC, many local providers, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies, college health centers, schools, and workplaces, are still offering flu vaccines. Flu vaccines are offered at DHEC Health Department clinics by appointment. Call 1-800-868-0404 to make an appointment or go to scdhec.gov/flu/FluClinics to find the location closest to you. For more information about the flu, visit scdhec.gov/flu.