State health experts and local doctors are encouraging residents to get their flu shots following South Carolina’s first influenza-related death of the season last week.
Officials also want people to avoid feeding into false theories about the shot, the main one being that a flu shot can give someone the flu.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported Thursday that a resident from the Midlands region died from the flu. Since October 2015, there have been 48 flu-related deaths.
“We’re really pushing for everyone to get the flu vaccine now,” said Teresa Foo, a DHEC immunization medical consultant.
DHEC’s most recent update, which has numbers for the week ending on Oct. 1, shows that there were 41 confirmed flu cases in 15 counties. The agency reported 79 cases around the same time last year.
Foo said the numbers may read different but that the same suggestions still apply, including making sure children and older adults get vaccinated. She said it’s also important for pregnant women and people with chronic conditions to get a flu shot.
Those sentiments are shared by local medical experts, including ones at Roper St. Francis. In addition to encouraging the general public to get their flu shots, the hospital system requires all of its employees to get vaccinated.
Ann Perritt, a nurse at Roper Hospital, said employees are around patients all day long and many of them work in a doctor’s office inside the hospital.
“We’re exposed to everyone so it’s even more important for us to get our shots,” she said.
She said it’s also important for people to understand the difference between the flu and a bad cold. The flu is a specific viral infection that requires more treatment than a cold.
“We know that true influenza kills,” Perrit said. “I’ve never had the flu but I’ve seen it and I know how dangerous it can be.”
Dr. Valerie Scott, a doctor at Roper, said it’s also important for people to not feed into the rumors about flu shot.
“I hear people come up with reasons all day long about why they shouldn’t get their shot,” she said. “The fact is, the shot is an inactive virus that cannot make you sick. “You may feel achy or have fever for a day or so, but it helps build up immunity to protect against the flu.”
Overall, the flu proved less deadly last year than the year before. DHEC reported 141 flu-related deaths spanning from September 2014 to March 2015. The final count for last season was 47 deaths.
Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.