Flu claims 22 more lives in SC, but there is some good news on the flu front

Henry Beverly, 73, battles the flu while tended to by nurse Kathleen Burks at Upson Regional Medical Center in Thomaston, Ga., last week. Those aged 65 and older have been hit hard this flu season.
Henry Beverly, 73, battles the flu while tended to by nurse Kathleen Burks at Upson Regional Medical Center in Thomaston, Ga., last week. Those aged 65 and older have been hit hard this flu season. AP

The flu remains widespread in South Carolina, but for the second straight week the number of confirmed cases fell statewide.

According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, approximately 18,372 flu cases were confirmed from Feb. 4-10. Of those, 18,000 came via positive rapid antigen detection tests, while another 372 were lab-confirmed.

It is 354 fewer cases than last week.

Horry County also saw modest drop in its number of flu cases.

A week ago, DHEC reported approximately 1,270 flu cases in the area. Over the past seven days, that number fell to under 1,000 cases for the first time in almost a month.

Georgetown County saw a modest bump in its number of flu cases, as 505 people were diagnosed with the illness.

Greenville County remains the state’s hot spot for flu activity, 3,646 cases confirmed in the past week. It was the only county in the Palmetto State last week to have more than 2,000 cases diagnosed.

Richland, Charleston and Spartanburg counties also reported more than 1,000 flu cases in the past week.

On a sour note, 22 more people died over the course of the past week as a result of the flu. The tally for those succumbing to the illness this flu season now stands at 128.

“The percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza was 10.2 percent (last week),” according to DHEC. “This is above the epidemic threshold for the week ending Jan. 20, 2018.”

Those ages 65 and older continue to be hit hardest, accounting for 93 of the deaths this flu season — a staggering rate of almost 73 percent.

The flu is also putting a dent on senior citizens’ hospital tab. Approximately 2,019 hospital stays are blamed on the illness.

DHEC figures report 3,412 people have been hospitalized as a result of the flu since October.

The H3N2 strain is the primary culprit this flu season, responsible for almost 74 percent of all cases, according to DHEC reports.

A contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, the flu is marked by a sudden onset of fever, cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat and nasal congestion.

Hospitals, schools and other gathering spots are doing their part to ensure the flu’s march doesn’t wind up close to home.

In recent weeks, Grand Strand Health and Tidelands Health hospital system have encouraged children under the age of 12 and those with flu-like symptoms to avoid visiting loved ones being treated at local medical facilities.

Horry County Schools — though obviously not as age-restrictive — have asked parents to monitor their children, keeping them at home if any they see any of the illness’ telltale signs. Regular reminders on Facebook also ask children to regularly wash their hands, cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing and to regularly clean surfaces that are potential landing spots for the flu virus.

Health officials stress that the best way to avoid catching the flu is to get vaccinated.

“Getting vaccinated annually is the No. 1 way to combat this contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization – and even death,” a prepared statement read. “DHEC and CDC recommend that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine, which can reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits and missed work and school due to the flu.”

Those seeking flu shots can do so by setting up an appointment at the Myrtle Beach Health Department or Horry County Health Department by calling 1-800-868-0404.

Flu vaccines are also being offered at doctor’s offices, clinics and pharmacies.

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII

Guidelines to avoid the flu

▪  Avoiding contact with sick people;

▪  If sick, limit contact with others;

▪  If experiencing flu symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, with the exception of getting medical care or other necessities;

▪  Cover your nose and mouse with a tissue when coughing or sneezing;

▪  Wash your hands often with soap and water;

▪  Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;

▪  Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs such as the flu.