SCDHEC urges get a flu shot

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In recognition of National Influenza Vaccination Week Dec. 5-9, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) urges residents who have not yet gotten their annual flu shot to do so as soon as possible. South Carolina is currently having its most active flu season of the last decade, making it more important than usual to get a safe and effective flu shot.
“A high level of flu activity started much earlier this flu season than it usually does and it’s impact on South Carolina communities has been compounded by the rise in respiratory syncytial virus, or ‘RSV,’ cases,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “As a result, we’re seeing extraordinary rates of respiratory illnesses contributed to by widespread flu activity across our state and the rest of the nation. As families and friends make plans to gather through the rest of the holiday season, we strongly encourage everyone to include a flu shot in their plans. These vaccinations save lives and prevent severe cases of the flu, which means fewer hospital visits and more time at home and healthy with your loved ones.”
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of six months and is safe for pregnant people and anyone wishing to become pregnant. The quadrivalent flu vaccine offers the best protection against the four most common flu viruses circulating this season, including two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. It is important to receive the flu vaccine every fall since the flu virus changes every year, requiring an updated vaccine to be fully protected against the current circulating flu.
The flu vaccine is available from many providers, including DHEC health departments, doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools, and workplaces. Most insurance companies cover the cost of vaccination. 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.
DHEC’s Flu Watch page includes weekly surveillance of flu cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and provides flu vaccination data. The latest report shows a weekly total of 3,217 lab-confirmed cases and 32,633 cases to date this season. By comparison, last season’s total at this time was 976 cases, which is a 3243% increase. Other indicators of flu severity have also increased significantly, with 1,523 hospitalizations and 21 deaths this season compared to just 38 hospitalizations and 3 deaths at this point last season.
Adding to the increased flu activity is the low vaccination rate across the state. Only about 51% of residents ages 65 and older have received their flu shot. Just 16.4% of eligible residents ages 18 and younger, and 16.1% of those 19 to 64, are vaccinated. People who are older than 65 or younger than 5 years of age are similarly at higher risk of complications from the flu.
“Almost everyone can play a role in curbing these alarming numbers and preventing more hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Bell. “We really need our children and young adults to get their flu shot since it not only protects them, but their loved ones who may be older or immunocompromised.”
Visit DHEC’s flu page and CDC’s page on National Influenza Vaccination Week for more information.
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