COLUMBIA -- The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Tuesday that the state has suffered its first flu-associated death of the season.
"Sadly, an individual from the Upstate region has become our first lab-confirmed, influenza-associated death of the season," said Teresa Foo MD, MPH, DHEC immunization medical consultant. "Unfortunately we see many deaths, hospitalizations and other serious complications of flu each year in South Carolina."
Foo said those at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people 65 years and older and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart or lung disease.
"But even healthy people can have serious complications from the flu," she said. "That is why it is so important for everyone six months and older to get the flu vaccine every year. It is the best way to prevent the flu."
"Flu activity is unpredictable each year, so we need to prepare for several months of the virus circulating in our communities," Dr. Foo said. "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."
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It can cause mild to severe illness and can be deadly - especially to vulnerable people, including those with certain chronic health conditions. Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, and nasal congestion or stuffiness.
In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccination, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following everyday preventive measures:
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
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.
"Flu vaccine is available from many local providers - including doctors' offices, clinics, pharmacies, DHEC health departments, schools and workplaces," Foo said.
Flu vaccines offered at DHEC Health Department clinics are available by appointment. Call 1-800-868-0404 to make an appointment or go to www.scdhec.gov/flu/fluclinics to find the location closest to you. To find a non-DHEC flu vaccine provider near you, go to flushot.healthmap.org. For more information about preventing the flu, visit www.scdhec.gov/flu.