The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has announced has that the state has suffered its first pediatric flu-related death of the season.
“It’s sad and unfortunate that we must report the death of a child in the Midlands Region from the complications of the flu. We extend our condolences to this family,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist and DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control.
While the flu can circulate any time of year, for surveillance purposes, the season begins Oct. 1. “Although we are early in the season, we have been seeing widespread flu activity since the first week. This suggests we could have a severe flu season, and we all must take actions to protect ourselves and others,” Bell said.
“That is particularly true for certain groups of our population. People 65 and over, young children and people with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of complications from the flu. But complications can unpredictably occur even among young and previously healthy people,” she said.
The best protection against the illness is the flu shot. DHEC and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older who is eligible get vaccinated. It takes about two weeks for the body to build up protection after getting the flu vaccine, so it’s important to get vaccinated soon to prevent more illnesses since flu has already spread widely in South Carolina and other states.
The active flu season coincides with ongoing COVID-19 cases and an elevated number of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, cases. The same preventive methods that protect against COVID-19 also protect against the flu virus: vaccination, masks, frequent handwashing, and staying home or away for others while sick.
The flu vaccine is available from many providers, including DHEC health departments, doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools and workplaces. Most insurance companies cover the cost of vaccination. For those who have not had either of the two, it is safe to receive the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.
Low or no cost flu vaccines offered at DHEC health department clinics are available by appointment. Call 1-855-472-3432 to make an appointment or go to scdhec.gov/fluclinics to find the nearest location. DHEC provides a weekly Flu Watch report published each Wednesday at scdhec.gov/flu. For more information about preventing the flu, visit scdhec.gov/flu.