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First death of 2018 flu season in SC reported by DHEC after hundreds died last year

A patient getting an annual flu shot at the Duke Pulmonology clinic. Doctors say it’s not too late to get your flu shot as the flu season enters its most active period. this winter.
A patient getting an annual flu shot at the Duke Pulmonology clinic. Doctors say it’s not too late to get your flu shot as the flu season enters its most active period. this winter. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Close to 300 people died in South Carolina during the last flu season.

The first flu-related fatality of the 2018 season was reported by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) Thursday.

“Sadly, an individual from the Lowcountry region has died from complications due to the flu,” DHEC director of public health Dr. Lilian Peake said in a news release. “This is our first lab-confirmed, influenza-associated death of the season. Unfortunately, we see many deaths, hospitalizations and other serious complications of flu each year in South Carolina.”

During last flu season, there were 135,842 reported cases of influenza in S.C., according to DHEC. Of that number, 4,551 people were hospitalized and 292 people died. That was a significant rise in deaths over the 177 people who died the previous flu season.

Symptoms of the flu can include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat and nasal congestion or stuffiness, according to DHEC.

What actions—apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine—can you take to help slow the spread of illnesses like the flu?

Overall, more than 80,000 people died from the flu during the past season, McClatchy reported. The majority of those who died were over age 65, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which reported the majority of Americans do not get the flu shot every year.

“Last flu season was one of the worst in recent years and highlights the importance of getting your flu vaccine,” DHEC Immunization Medical Consultant Dr. Tracy Foo said in a news release.

Those most vulnerable to “serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people 65 years and older and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease,” according to Peake. She said that “even healthy people can have serious complications from the flu.”

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine, according to DHEC.

In spite of that recommendation, more than 61 percent of South Carolina residents did not get a flu shot last season, according to a study by Insurance Quotes.

”Flu activity is unpredictable each year, so we need to prepare for several months of the virus circulating in our communities,” Peake said in a news release. “The most common strains of the flu virus that circulate can change every year, so it’s important to get the current flu vaccine each year for the best protection. Therefore, we strongly encourage people to get vaccinated now to prevent the flu and its potentially serious consequences. The vaccine takes about two weeks to build up your body’s protection against the virus.”

Adults 50 and older are among the groups “at increased risk of complications from flu,” DHEC reported. Others at risk include young children and pregnant women among others.

In addition to a flu shot, DHEC encourages S.C. residents to do the following to prevent spreading the illness:

While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If a tissue is not available, use the crook of your elbow

Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub

Do you know the symptoms of the flu and how to prevent it? Dr. Teresa Foo with SC DHEC breaks down the basics of the flu.

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