SCDHEC confirms 2020 season’s first Flu-related death

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The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported Wednesday (Nov. 18) that the state has suffered its first flu-associated death of the season.

“Sadly, an individual from the Pee Dee region has died from complications due to the flu, our first confirmed influenza-associated death of the season,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist and DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control. “As we’re currently in the throes of the worst public health crisis in 100 years, it’s never been more important for each and every one of us to stay as healthy as possible and one key step we can take is getting our flu shots.”

DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated. Preventing the flu is particularly important for people who are at increased risk of complications from the virus, including young children, adults aged 50 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions.

Contracting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time is possible and could likely cause more complications than if the flu were the sole infection. The flu vaccine available this year protects against the four most common different flu viruses that are expected to circulate this flu season. Flu vaccines are safe, effective, and do not cause the flu. Receiving your flu shot reduces your chances of contracting the flu, and, if contracted, lessens hospitalizations and deaths due to influenza.

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. However, healthy people also can have serious complications from the flu.

“Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions in history for reducing disease spread and preventing complications and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases,” Bell said. “So many generations before us would have given anything to have a flu vaccine. With COVID-19’s prevalence across our state, we must every opportunity we have like the vaccines that medical science has afforded us to help prevent illness like the flu. The includes the use of masks, physical distancing good hygiene, and avoiding group gatherings. These measures prevent both influenza and COVID-19 infections.”

“Another reason why it’s important to get your flu shot this year is we must avoid overwhelming our hospitals, ICUs, and ventilators as best we can with both flu and COVID-19 patients on the increase,” said Bell.

The flu vaccine is available from many providers including DHEC health departments, doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools, and workplaces.

Flu vaccines offered at DHEC health department clinics are available by appointment. Call 1-855-472-3432 to make an appointment or go to scdhec.gov/fluclinics to find the nearest location. For other vaccine providers, visit vaccinefinder.org/find-vaccine. More information about preventing the flu is available at www.scdhec.gov/flu.

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