DHEC Confirms 2023 Season’s First Flu-related Death in South Carolina
For Immediate Release:
September 27, 2023
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced today that the state has suffered its first influenza-associated death of the season.
"Unfortunately, a person from the Midlands region has died from complications due to the flu, becoming our first confirmed influenza-associated death just before the official start of the season on October 1,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist and DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control.
“Although we are just entering the flu season, this is a sober reminder to us all that the flu is already here and that it can be deadly. Sadly, we see many deaths, hospitalizations and other serious complications of flu each year in our state,” Dr. Bell said. “The best way to prevent the flu is to get your shot early.”
DHEC and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated. Preventing the flu is particularly important for people who are at increased risk of complications from the virus, including young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older, and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart or lung disease. However, healthy people also can have serious complications from the flu.
While the flu can circulate any time of year, for surveillance purposes, the flu season begins Oct. 1. DHEC provides a weekly Flu Watch report published each Wednesday at scdhec.gov/flu.
Preventive methods that protect against the flu and other respiratory viruses include vaccination, masks, frequent handwashing, and staying home or away for others while sick.
It takes about two weeks for the body’s immune system to respond for full protection. It is important to get vaccinated as early as possible to be fully protected.
“We can’t predict what this season will bring, but we are preparing for significant activity not only from the flu, but respiratory illnesses in general, to include COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC’s director of Public Health. “Just like with the flu, being vaccinated is the best protection against severe illness from COVID-19 or RSV. People should talk with their health care provider to evaluate the risks and benefits of vaccination for them.”
As these respiratory illnesses circulate in our communities, it is possible to get sick with one or more of them. Most people who get sick have mild cases and recover in one to two weeks. However, some people can become critically ill. People most at risk for severe illness and complications from these respiratory illnesses are infants, young children, older adults, pregnant people and those with chronic medical conditions.
The flu vaccine will be available from many providers, including DHEC health departments (by Oct. 1), doctors' offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools and workplaces. It is safe to receive the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first product for preventing RSV lower respiratory tract disease in infants and an RSV vaccine for adults at least 60 years old.
Flu vaccines offered at DHEC health department clinics are available by appointment. Call 1-855-472-3432 to make an appointment or go to scdhec.gov/fluclinics to find the nearest location. More information about preventing the flu is available at scdhec.gov/flu. Also, monitor respiratory illness activity in our state by following Flu Watch and the Respiratory Disease Watch, which are updated every Wednesday.