Editorial: Flu shot best way to prevent infection

  • Posted: 1/17/2013 10:22 AM
    6/1/2013 6:11 PM

With more than 20 flu deaths reported in South Carolina and two in Aiken County, now is not the time to take chances with your health by not getting vaccinated against the influenza virus.

Enough cases of flu and flu-like illnesses have been reported in the state that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has classified influenza activity as "widespread." South Carolina is one of 40 states with the same level of activity.

Statewide, there have been more than 1,000 flu hospitalizations since September. There have also been a total of 22 flu-associated deaths since September.

In the same period last year, there was only one flu-associated death, according to SCDHEC spokesman Jim Beasley.

Not only did the flu season start earlier this year before the human body had the opportunity to strengthen its immunity, but the predominant strain is one that has proved to be more virulent than others.

Flu activity typically peaks in February, so health officials are concerned that a large number of cases have been reported early on. The last time a conventional flu season started this early was the winter of 2003-04, which proved to be one of the most lethal seasons in the past 35 years with more than 48,000 deaths. The dominant type of flu then is the same one seen this year.

Be on the look out for fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so stay away from sick people and stay home if you're sick.

Everyone is at risk of contracting influenza, especially children, senior adults, and those with chronic illnesses like diabetes or COPD. But, health officials say the best way to stave off the virus is to get a flu shot.

The vaccination contains inactive viruses, so the shot cannot give someone the flu. It is typical, however, to feel soreness at the spot where the shot was administered. The shot takes at least seven days to be effective, so it will not protect those who already are ill with the flu.

Flu shots are available at many physicians' offices, health clinics and pharmacies.

The best ways to prevent the spread of flu are to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash hands often and thoroughly and stay home when you are sick.

Get a flu shot. You'll be doing yourself and those around you a favor.