Columbia, SC - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has confirmed the first flu-related death in South Carolina of the current flu season.
"Sadly, an individual from the Lowcountry region has died from complications due to the flu," said Dr. Lilian Peake, DHEC director of public health. "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."
Peake 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, 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," Peake 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:
• 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, Peake said.
Flu vaccines offered at DHEC Health Department clinics are available by appointment. Call 1-855-472-3432 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