2018-02-09 / On Second Thought

ASK US AT THE STAR

Why has this flu season been so bad?
Compiled by Warren Hughes

This year‘s predominant flu strain virus— influenza A, specifically H3N2— tends to cause more serious illness, says the nation’s Centers for Communicable Diseases. That’s the same strain that caused the 2014-2015 and 2012-13 seasons to be so severe.

As always, the young and elderly are affected the most, but this year, baby boomers age 50 to 64 have also been hit hard.

As of January 31, a total of 84 influenza-associated deaths in the Palmetto State have been reported by the S. C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“ The Influenza A strain continues to be the most frequently reported this season in South Carolina and nationally,” said Dr. Tracy Foo, DHEC Immunization Medical Consultant.

“ When there are high levels of the H3N2 strain circulating, there tends to be more severe illness and a higher number of deaths.”

In rare cases, people whose immune systems have been weakened by the flu can get bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, which can lead to fatal complications.

This year’s flu vaccine has not been completely effective in warding off the virus. However, DHEC is still advising everyone to get the vaccine even now if you haven’t already done so.

If you have symptoms including fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, headache and fatigue, you may have the flu. However, if you see a doctor within 48 hours of becoming ill, you may be able to take antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, which may shorten the course of the illness and reduce its severity.

If you have the flu, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides. Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wipe down surfaces that may have come into contact with the virus, since germs can live on them for up to 24 hours.

The flu vaccine is available from providers statewide. In addition to DHEC, many local providers, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies, college health centers, schools, and workplaces are still offering flu vaccines.

Flu vaccines are offered at DHEC Health Department clinics by appointment. Call 1-800- 868- 0404 to make an appointment or go to scd hec.gov/flu/FluClinics to find the location closest to you.

For more information about the flu, visit scdhec.gov/flu.

We want to add to the community’s storehouse of knowledge, whether it is a neighborhood matter, a larger issue or a simple curiosity. We’ll do the footwork for you. Submit your questions to mimim@thecolumbiastar.com or pams@thecolumbiastar.com.

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