It seems the worst has finally passed in regard to flu activity in South Carolina.
Widespread in the Palmetto State for the past 10 weeks, the illness is believed to be present only on a regional basis, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control officials said.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms may include a sudden onset of fever, cough, headache or muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat and nasal congestion.
According to a report released Wednesday by the state health agency, there were 2,192 confirmed flu cases from Feb. 25 to March 3. That total is down almost 4,500 from the previous week.
Flu cases also are trending downward in Horry County, as only 203 were diagnosed in the past week. Approximately 61 cases were confirmed in Georgetown County.
In essence, flu season peaked in late January on the Grand Strand.
After three months of relative calm, approximately 4,359 new cases were confirmed in Horry County by DHEC between Jan. 7 and Feb. 3. The flu was most active from Jan. 21-27, when the state health agency documented 1,506 new instances locally.
Flu season did not hit its peak in Georgetown County until the following week — Feb. 4-10 — when 505 new cases were diagnosed.
In all, there have been 7,312 cases of the flu diagnosed in Horry County, according to DHEC’s most recent data. Georgetown County has racked up 2,505 cases of its own.
On a statewide basis, there has been 123,812 instances of the flu since the beginning of October. The H3N2 strain of the virus was most common statewide, responsible for almost 70 percent of all diagnoses.
Senior citizens are among the hardest hit this flu season in S.C., as approximately 2,339 people 65 and older have been hospitalized. The age group is responsible for 143 of the state’s 201 flu deaths since October.
While flu activity has leveled off, it doesn’t mean the threat is over.
DHEC and those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ask all to get vaccinated. “Getting vaccinated is the No. 1 way to combat this contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization — and even death,” a prepared statement said.
Flu vaccines are available at doctor’s offices, clinics and pharmacies. They are also available at the Myrtle Beach and Horry County health departments by calling 1-800-868-0404.
Other precautionary measures include:
— Avoiding 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 mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing;
— Wash 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.