The azaleas are in full bloom, Easter is upon us, but Charleston isn’t free of the flu just yet.
By the numbers: Influenza in South Carolina
40,397Number of positive rapid tests for Influenza A in S.C. during the 2012-13 flu season.8,957 Number of positive rapid tests for Influenza B in S.C. during the same period.1,524Number of people who have been hospitalized with flu-like illness in S.C. since Oct. 1.1Number of people who have died in Charleston County from the flu during the 2012-13 season.105Number of children who have died from the flu in the U.S. this season.20-50 million Number of people killed worldwide by the 1918 influenza pandemic.56%Effectiveness of this year’s shot. If you got the vaccine, you were 56% less likely to have to go to the doctor with symptoms.Note: The CDC doesn’t track U.S. flu-related adult deaths. It will release an estimate of the number of adults who died after the season ends.Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
That’s why Lolita Brown brought her three granddaughters into Nason Medical Center in North Charleston on Wednesday afternoon to be tested for it.
“It’s a hacking cough,” Brown told Dr. Barron Nason.
BrY’Yasia Costen, 8, the oldest granddaughter at the doctor’s office, seemed to be the sickest, Brown said.
“She’s been coughing all night. ... Now she’s not eating. I know she’s dehydrated.”
Even a frozen lime push-up pop couldn’t tempt BrY’Yasia, who wore a surgical mask over her face to shield her younger sisters from her coughing.
After 15 minutes, all three flu tests came back negative. It turns out the girls have a bad case of upper-respiratory infection.
“The good news, with a little medicine, we are going to knock it out,” Nason told them.
But there are plenty out there who are still testing positive for the flu, he said.
Cases of Influenza B have been on the rise in Charleston and throughout South Carolina this month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While cases of Influenza A — the more prevalent strain of the flu — peaked at all five Nason Medical Centers at the end of December, Influenza B seemed to peak in mid-March.
“B is hitting with a vengeance,” Nason said.
During the week of March 10-16, the most recent week for which data is available through the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, 1,954 South Carolinians tested positive for the B strain of flu, compared with 422 cases of Influenza A.
The primary Influenza A strain has dominated this flu season, though, accounting for about four out of every five cases of the flu in South Carolina since Oct. 1.
The symptoms for the two strains are virtually the same, said Michael Jhung, an epidemiologist at the CDC.
“Most people who get the flu will get fever, cough and sore throat; those are the most common symptoms of the flu,” he said.
More than 50,000 people in the state were infected with the flu between Oct. 1 and March 16, and 41 South Carolinians have died from it, according to DHEC.
That’s still less than the 2009-10 season when 49 laboratory-confirmed influenza deaths were reported in the state.
The CDC does not track how many adults die from the flu nationwide. Jhung said epidemiologists at the CDC will estimate how many adults died from influenza and pneumonia during the season once it ends, but that data is not yet available.
The season is not over yet, Jhung said, but analysts predict this one will be labeled “moderately severe.”
In South Carolina, DHEC spokeswoman Lindsey Evans characterized the season as active, but typical.
“Compared to last season, this one has been very active since last season’s activity was unusually low,” Evans said. “In general, this season may appear more severe because it peaked earlier than usual and because we had such a mild season last year.”
The CDC will continue to track flu data through April.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.
Lab tech Ayasha Johnson tests patient swabs for flu Wednesday at Nason Medical Center in North Charleston.×
From left, BrY’Yasia Costen, 8, Imauria Peoples, 6, and Sakeria Peoples, 4, wait with their grandmother Lolita Brown for the results after being tested for the flu Wednesday at Nason Medical Center in North Charleston.×