Wednesday, February 26, 2014
The end of February is approaching but the end of flu season is months away.
A flu death in Dorchester County was reported on Feb. 14, and county Coroner Christopher Nisbet said it is the second flu death in Dorchester since Jan. 1.
Nisbet said he found it odd that both flu victims were under 45 years old.
Shannon Conrad, a primary care physician at Doctor’s Care in Summerville, said she has seen a higher number of flu cases this year than last year – even people who have been vaccinated for the flu have been diagnosed.
Conrad said she is not sure why more cases are popping up this year.
“It’s hard to predict,” she said. “We try to educate our patients on hand-washing and covering their cough and whatnot.”
Conrad added it is particularly unusual that people are catching the flu at this point in time during the flu season; usually people get sick before the New Year.
“I think the number is starting to dwindle off,” she said. “It’s always surprising to me when someone has the flu this late in the season.”
The flu tends to be worse in people over the age of 50 and younger than 5 years old.
Conrad explained the flu vaccinations are created a year in advance; every year different strains of influenza are examined and the vaccine is based on those strains.
“We still recommend everyone receive their flu vaccine,” Conrad said. “Those who get vaccinated and still get the flu are really outliers.”
While two individuals under the age of 45 dying from the flu is unusual to Conrad, she said it is hard to determine the problem without knowing their personal cases.
“We have to realize that the number of people who die from the flu in this day in age is significantly lower than what it used to be,” she said.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control shows online the difference between this current flu season and the previous flu season. Since Sept. 29, 67 lab-confirmed flu deaths have been reported in the state as a whole. During the previous flu season – from Sept. 30, 2012 to June 29, 2013 – 46 flu-associated deaths were reported in the state.
DHEC public information director Jim Beasley said flu season should – hopefully – end around April or May.
He said he does not know why more people have died from the flu this year.
“Could it be because fewer people are taking care of themselves?” he said. “You never know. All we know is the flu is in South Carolina and we ask people to take precaution.”
Beasley pointed out this is not the first time the flu has struck in high numbers.
“In 2009 the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic started in May,” he said. “That was an extremely unusual event.”
Beasley recommends everyone should be mindful of washing their hands, staying home if they feel sick and still get the flu vaccine.
“In our eyes it’s never to late to get vaccinated,” he said. “Some drug stores may still have some.”