Flu claims another life in South Carolina

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is urging everyone over six months of age to get a flu vaccine this year. The vaccines are available in county health departments, in pharmacies and in doctors’ offices. Adults do not need a prescription to receive a flu vaccine.

Another South Carolinian died from the flu last month, bringing the statewide total to six deaths this flu season, the state health department reported.

Still, flu activity remains low across South Carolina.

Since Oct. 4, health care providers have administered 962 positive rapid antigen tests for the flu, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, compared with 1,372 positive tests during the same window last year.

These numbers represent only a fraction of patients who have likely suffered from the flu. Many patients who report flu-like illness to their health care provider aren’t tested to confirm it. Others never see a doctor for their symptoms.

Last year, flu activity in South Carolina peaked in late December and early January.

Dr. Teresa Foo, DHEC’s medical consultant for immunization, said it’s too soon to tell what will happen this season.

“Flu seasons vary year to year,” Foo said. “We are low right now and it’s really going to be a wait-and-see kind of thing.”

Early testing indicates the flu vaccine is a good match for the virus, she said.

During the 2014-2015 flu season, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the vaccine was only 23 percent effective, the lowest score since the 2004-2005 season when the vaccine was only 10 percent effective.

“Everyone over the age of six months should get their flu vaccine. It’s the best way to prevent the flu,” Foo said.

“It takes about two weeks to build up immunity” after the vaccine is administered, she said.

Last flu season, 156 South Carolinians — including three children — died from the flu, up from 77 deaths during the 2013-2014 flu season.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.

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