DHEC reports first flu-related death of season, health officials encourage flu shot


The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today that the state has suffered its first influenza-associated death of the season.

“Sadly, someone from the Midlands region has died from complications due to the flu,” says Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist and DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control.

Officials from DHEC and Prisma Health are encouraging everyone to get the flu shot as soon as possible.

Medical consultant for DHEC, Dr. Jonathan Knoche, says they’re already seeing widespread flu activity across South Carolina.

“We’ve definitely seen a dramatic jump in the number of flu cases this year than any recent flu season. So in the last 8 years, we never really started above the baseline level of flu illnesses, and we’re already above that baseline here in the very first week of flu season,” says Dr. Knoche.

Health officials report that most vaccines take one to two weeks to reach their full effectiveness.

“Good hand washing, hand washing with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available you can use other kinds of liquid gels or hand sanitizers. Covering coughs, covering sneezes. If you are sick–not going to work or not going to school, or your kids not going to school. Those are all things that can help prevent the spread. Also wearing a face mask will help trap any potential droplets when someone might cough or sneeze from spreading in a room or a community,” says Dr. Knoche.

Vice Chair of Clinical Operations for Prisma Health, Dr. Tisha Boston, says the flu shot can help prevent severe cases, hospitalizations, or deaths that stem from contracting the flu.

“Not only are you getting vaccinated for yourself, you’re getting vaccinated for the people around you. Because sometimes the people around you don’t have the same antibody response. So you may have a very healthy immune system and you may not get very sick. But maybe your grandparent is the person that would get really sick if you were sick and took it to them,” says Dr. Boston.

The CDC reports that between 12,000 and 52,000 people in the U.S. die every year from the flu.

Dr. Boston hopes people think about those numbers when considering not to get the vaccine, saying, “I don’t think that people realize that when people think about not getting the vaccine. I think it’s very helpful for people to understand that people die from the flu, but it’s a preventable disease.”

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