The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has announced that the state has suffered its first flu-associated death of the season.
“Sadly, an individual from the Upstate 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 continue to respond to the worst public health crisis in 100 years, it’s important that we all remain as healthy as possible. 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, pregnant women, people 65 and older, and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart or lung disease. However, healthy people also can have serious complications from the flu.
There have been 79 lab-confirmed cases of the flu in South Carolina so far this flu season. DHEC provides a weekly Flu Watch report published each Wednesday at scdhec.gov/flu. Updated case numbers will be posted later today.
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 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.
“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 use the vaccines that medical science has afforded us to help prevent illness like the flu.”
“Another reason why it’s important to get your flu shot this year is we don’t want to overwhelm our hospitals, ICUs, and ventilators with both flu and COVID-19 patients,” said Bell.
It takes about two weeks for the body’s immune system to respond for full protection. It is important to get vaccinated as early as possible to be fully protected before flu viruses begin circulating widely. The flu vaccine is available from many providers, including DHEC health departments, doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools and workplaces. For those who have not had either of the two, it is safe to receive the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.
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 scdhec.gov/flu.