FAIRFIELD COUNTY — The flu bug that is running rampant throughout the state and nation has hit hard in Fairfield County as well.
Though Fairfield Memorial Hospital does not keep statistics on the number of flu cases it receives, Dr. Larry Cantey, Emergency Room director for FMH, said he thinks there are a lot of flu cases in the county that the hospital is not seeing due to a variety of factors including persons seeking care from primary care physicians instead of hospitals.
Regardless though, the hospital has seen an upswing in cases.
“I have not seen as much flu since 1982 when I started practicing medicine,” said Cantey. “This is the most flu I have ever seen and the earliest I have ever seen the flu.”
According to the most recent DHEC data, there were 13 confirmed cases of flu in Fairfield County from Dec. 25-29. The flu is widespread throughout the state, meaning flu has been detected in at least four regions in South Carolina by the DHEC monitoring.
According to its website, www.scdhec.gov/flu, DHEC estimates from last year’s data alone that 10 percent of the South Carolina population (about 400,000 people) will have flu by the end of this year’s flu season.
DHEC officials stress that people who have not had a flu shot can still receive some benefit from an injection even at this late a date and urge persons who have not been inoculated to get a shot.
Those concerned about the effectiveness or safety of the shot can learn more by calling 1-800-27SHOTS (1-800-277-4687). It takes a few weeks to build up immunity from the injection, so the sooner one receives a shot, the better.
DHEC also advises frequent hand washing, avoiding touching one’s face and covering one’s mouth and nose either with a tissue or a sleeve when coughing or sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu.
Washing hands with soap and water for the length of time to sing the Happy Birthday Song twice is the preferred method of hand washing by DHEC.
Avoiding contact with sick persons and staying home if one is sick with the flu or flu-like symptoms also help stop the spread of the virus. DHEC recommends that persons stay home until they can stop taking fever reducing medications and yet have no symptoms for a 24-hour period while off the medications. Exercising, eating a healthy diet and getting proper rest will help make one robust in the face of the flu as well.
This season the majority of the cases come from influenza A H3N2, with 86.1 percent coming from that strain, but influenza A H1N1 (7.8 percent) and influenza B (6 percent) also are causing their share of sickness.
Since Sept. 30, 534 positive flu specimens were reported with 70 occurring during the most recent reporting period. There was an increase in positive rapid flu tests of 3,206 cases from Dec. 25-Jan 2. with 221 lab confirmed hospitalizations and two confirmed lab deaths reported from the flu.
Since Sept. 30 in South Carolina there have been 15 confirmed deaths attributed to the flu. Of those deaths, 12 were to persons age 65 or older and one was of a child four years old or younger. It’s worth noting that the confirmed lab cases include data from five different flu tests, including the rapid test and a flu culture test. Therefore, there can and are many cases of flu that do not require hospitalization and that extensive confirmation by testing, which is why Cantey said there are many more flu cases out there in the county than FMH has seen.