Officials: Flu Shots, Common Sense Best Defense Against Infectious Virus

Annemie Rivers, LPN, left, gives April Perry a flu shot at Family Health Centers Inc. in Orangeburg. Aching muscles, chills, headache, persistent cough and fever await anyone who has been bitten by the highly infectious virus, which is making its presence known in The T&D Region and across South Carolina.

Aching muscles, chills, headache, persistent cough and fever await anyone who has been bitten by the pesky flu bug that is making its presence known in The T&D Region and across South Carolina.

With flu season in full swing, maintaining good hygiene and getting a flu shot are among the preventive strategies that can be used to avoid getting sick.

"Anyone can get the flu even if you're healthy. There are some people who are at risk from complications from the flu and those include young children, older adults, especially those over 65, and anyone with chronic medical conditions," said Dr. Teresa Foo, MPH, medical consultant for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control's divisions of immunization and acute disease epidemiology.

According to DHEC's 2017-2018 Weekly Surveillance Report, Orangeburg County had a cumulative flu case rate of 77 per 100,000 population for the week of Dec. 31, 2017 - Jan. 6, 2018. Bamberg and Calhoun counties both had cumulative case rates of zero during the same week.

The SCDHEC reports there have been six laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated deaths; however, three of the deaths occurred in previous weeks.

In the current flu season, there have been 830 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 15 influenza-associated deaths, DHEC reports.

Fever, muscles aches and general tiredness are among the most common symptoms of the highly infectious virus, Foo said.

"The best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine each year. There's some other tips to remember as well during flu season. Make sure you're just generally staying healthy, getting exercise and plenty of sleep, eating well and making sure to wash your hands," she said, adding that staying away from anyone who is sick will also reduce the risk of getting the flu.

"Even if you have just some symptoms, I would stay home. If you can't afford to, limit your interaction in the public. We just sent out a memo to the staff as well in regard to respiratory and cough etiquette," said Tracy Gilliard, director of nursing at Family Health Centers Inc. in Orangeburg.

Patient masks and sanitizer are stationed at every entrance and service unit at the FHC, Gilliard said, noting that she considers handwashing "the number one defense" against the flu.

"Flu season isn't over until May, and it's predicted it may run longer than that," she said, adding that the season is expected to reach its peak in February.

Dr. Tracy McPherson of The Pediatric Clinic in Orangeburg said, "We've definitely seen this week a big increase in the number of positive flu. Most of the flu right now is Type A, but we certainly have seen some Type B starting to crop up in our results."

McPherson added, "Anecdotally, there does seem to be a difference between the kids who are not immunized and the kids who have received the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is never 100 percent perfect … but it just seems to be a much milder form of illness than that of children who are not immunized at all. So we are still recommending that folks go ahead and get the vaccine. It's not too late."

McPherson said Tamiflu is what her office is currently using for individuals testing positive for flu. "It's ideal within 24 to 48 hours of onset," she said, with the American Academy of Pediatrics extending that time to within 72 hours of onset of symptoms.

She said Tamiflu can also be used as a preventive measure, for example, for the unvaccinated family members of someone who has tested positive for flu.

"Other tips include good handwashing and staying away from others who are sick. But if all that fails, Tamiflu is available as a prophylaxis as well as treatment," McPherson said.

Foo said flu shots are available at local DHEC health departments.

"The best way to get one at your health department is to call the appointment line at 1-800-868-0404. The best place to get the vaccine is at a place that is convenient for you," Foo said. "That may be your local health department, your health care provider, a local pharmacy or other options, including employers or other clinics."

DHEC has flu vaccines available in health departments in Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties as well as other locations statewide.

Representatives will be able to schedule appointments at sites near callers. Individuals can find a non-DHEC flu vaccine provider near them by visiting