By now, you probably know at least one person who has come down with the flu, which is spreading rapidly across South Carolina.
The state has recorded more than 32,600 lab-confirmed flu cases, 33 times the number of confirmed cases recorded at this point in the 2021-22 flu season, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. There have been 1,523 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 21 deaths.
The rate of new influenza cases in the Palmetto State is among the highest in the country, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics.
“As anticipated, flu is coming on strong this year,” says Dr. Sean Nguyen, medical director of primary care at Tidelands Health and a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at The Market Common “It’s very important for people, especially those at high risk, to get vaccinated and take preventative measures to limit the risk of infection and slow the spread of the disease.”
Importance of vaccination, prevention
CDC recommends nearly everyone 6 months of age and older receive the flu shot, which is the single-best way to protect yourself from the flu. Receiving a flu shot makes it less likely that you’ll become ill and, even if you do, it can help reduce the severity of your symptoms. Prescription antiviral medications such as Tamiflu can be taken to prevent infection or to shorten the length of your illness if started promptly after you start experiencing symptoms.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu affected 35 million people in 2019-20. Of those, 380,000 were hospitalized and 20,000 died.
So far this year in South Carolina, virtually all flu cases are Influenza A, according to DHEC statistics. Less than 2 percent of lab-confirmed infections are Influenza B.
A number of different factors may be contributing to the early flu surge this year. For example, while many of the safeguards put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 also limited the spread of flu in recent years, spread is once again increasing now that those safeguards, such as masking and social distancing, are no longer in place. There may also be reduced population immunity because of the lack of flu activity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
In addition to getting the flu shot, Dr. Nguyen encourages people to stay up to date on the COVID-19 vaccine and booster, wash their hands thoroughly and often and avoid touching their eyes, mouth and nose as much as possible.
“As a respiratory illness, the flu spreads easily indoors and among crowds,” Nguyen says. “As such, it’s wise to wear a mask in those situations or avoid them altogether if you can.”
Dr. Sean Nguyen is a family medicine physician practicing at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach. A native of Myrtle Beach, Dr. Nguyen speaks English and Vietnamese.Learn More
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Dr. Sean Nguyen is a family medicine physician practicing at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach. A native of Myrtle Beach, Dr. Nguyen speaks English and Vietnamese.