DHEC confirms first case of flu season

COLUMBIA, SC (DHEC) – Influenza, or "the flu," has officially arrived in South Carolina, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported Thursday.

"DHEC's Bureau of Laboratories has confirmed the Influenza A H3 virus in a child from Richland County," said Jennifer Meredith, Ph.D. of DHEC's Division of Diagnostic Microbiology. "The flu case was confirmed through DHEC's annual statewide laboratory-based influenza surveillance program that includes surveillance partnerships with volunteer private practice physician offices, hospitals, colleges and nursing homes.

"Physicians may obtain collection kits by calling the DHEC laboratory at (803) 896-0819," Meredith said. "There is no charge for the service."

"The confirmation of flu in our state reinforces the need for vaccination against this dangerous illness," said Jerry Gibson, M.D., director of DHEC's Bureau of Disease Control. "The vaccine is recommended for everyone six months or older. The shot and nasal spray remain the single best way to prevent the flu.

"Flu season typically peaks in February in South Carolina. But you should get vaccinated as soon as possible to give your body time to strengthen its natural resistance to the virus before you're exposed," he said. "We strongly recommend flu vaccine for anyone who wants to reduce their risk from flu and its complications."

Influenza is a naturally occurring viral disease that causes respiratory infections. Symptoms may include:

  • A sudden onset of fever
  • Dry cough
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion or stuffiness.

"You can reduce the chance of spreading flu and other viruses by covering your cough with a tissue or your sleeve -- not your hands, washing your hands often and staying home if you get sick," Dr. Gibson said. "It's never too late to get vaccinated against the flu, but why wait to protect yourself?"

Information about who should get a flu vaccination is on the Web and available from your doctor or any of DHEC's 46 county public health departments. DHEC is only one of many flu shot providers. Check to see if your medical provider is offering flu shots.

Prices for the vaccine vary. DHEC clinics charge $25, which Medicare and Medicaid will cover for those who provide proof of eligibility. However, the shot will be provided regardless of ability to pay. Medicare Advantage enrollees should contact their plans to learn whether a certain provider needs to provide the flu shot. Free flu vaccine is also provided to children and adolescents eligible for the DHEC Vaccine Assurance For All Children Immunization Partnership in many doctors' offices, community health centers and DHEC's county public health departments.

You can find more information about the flu in South Carolina, flu vaccination, clinic times and locations at http://www.scdhec.gov/flu, or you may call DHEC's Immunization Division at (803) 898-0460 (toll free 1-800-277-4687).