(WSPA) — State health officials say an Upstate resident is the first person to die this flu season in South Carolina.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced the first flu-related death of the 2019 season on Thursday.
“Sadly, an individual from the Upstate region has died from complications due to the flu, our first lab-confirmed, influenza-associated death of the season,” said Dr. Linda Bell.
Bell is State Epidemiologist and DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control.
Doctors say getting the flu shot is the best prevention. While it’s not going to keep you from getting sick, it will lessen the risk.
In the last 30 days, CVS Pharmacy Nurse Practitioner Brent Holman has administered 280 influenza vaccines.
“A whole lot of people are coming through to get the flu shot right now,” he said.
But so far this flu season, Holman hasn’t treated any patients carrying the virus.
“But it is here in the Upstate,” Holman told 7News.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness is contagious with symptoms ranging from mild to deadly.
“Flu is a virus. It’s a respiratory virus. It’s usually spread by coughing, sneezing. People who blow their nose and throw away the kleenex [and] maybe not wash their hands,” Holman said. “Shaking hands or touching somebody that may have the flu.”
Health professionals say the virus strands change from one flu season to the next. They say that’s why people have to get a yearly shot with the latest antibodies.
“Certain high-risk groups really really need to get it,” said Public Health Department Dr. Tracy Murphy. “That would be young kids, particularly less than 5, pregnant women, people over 50 and people of any age with chronic health conditions.”
DHEC urges everyone at least six months of age receive the flu vaccine each season.
According to the CDC, last flu season, the vaccine was 40 percent effective. Dr. Murphy says the shot is still the best protection.
“Since the vaccine is not perfect people think what’s the use,” Dr. Murphy said. “But if you think about how common flu is a 50 perfect reduction is pretty significant.”
Health experts say the sooner people get the shot the better.
“It requires 14 days for your body to actually build immunity once you get the flu shot,” said Publix Pharmacy Manager Stephanie Yeung.
Vaccines are available at DHEC health department clinics.
In the Upstate most clinics and pharmacies have stockpiles of the vaccines, so right now is the best time to get one.
Call 1-855-472-3432 to make an appointment or visit www.scdhec.gov/flu/fluclinics for more information.