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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2015

S.C. suffers season's first flu-related deaths

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced today that the state has suffered its first four flu-associated deaths of the season.

"Tragically, individuals from the Upstate, Pee Dee and Lowcountry regions have become our first lab-confirmed, influenza-associated deaths of the season," said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. "We are in the beginning stages of our state's flu season. It is important to get vaccinated now. The vaccine takes about two weeks to build up your body's protection against the virus, and vaccination is - by far - the best way to prevent the spread of the flu."

"Flu activity typically peaks in February in South Carolina, so we have to prepare for several months of the disease circulating in our communities," said Dr. Bell. "Therefore, we strongly encourage vaccination for all individuals six months and older to prevent the flu and its potentially serious consequences."

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The flu can cause mild to severe illness and can be deadly - especially to vulnerable people, including the very young, the elderly and those with certain chronic health conditions. Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, and nasal congestion or stuffiness.

In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccination, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:

  • Staying away from people who are sick.
  • Staying home from work, school and errands if you are sick. By doing so, you will help keep others from getting sick, too.
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue if one is handy. Throw it away immediately after use. Otherwise, use the crook of your elbow.
  • Washing your hands often and thoroughly.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when someone touches something that is covered with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

"Other good habits include getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating good food to help you stay healthy in the winter and all year," said Dr. Bell.

Find additional information about preventing the flu at http://www.scdhec.gov/flu.

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Note to reporters and editors: DHEC will make physicians available for in-person and telephone interviews, by appointment, between the hours of 11:30 a.m. - noon and 1 - 2 p.m. To make an appointment, please contact the Division of Media Relations at (803) 898-7769.

DHEC will not release certain health information concerning individuals including, but not limited to, county of residence and age due to federal, state and agency data confidentiality requirements.

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Jim Beasley
Public Information Director
beaslejc@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.7769