So far, in the second week of October, South Carolina is experiencing sporadic influenza (flu) activity.
It’s impossible to predict how active this 2020-2021 influenza season will be. A sure way to minimize the spread is to continue following facemask ordinances, social distancing guidelines and limiting large group gatherings. This will ensure people with influenza and influenza-like illnesses won’t add to the strain on hospitals caring for COVID-19 patients.
This fall can be a confusing time if you’re not feeling well. It could be the common cold, COVID-19 or the flu. If you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or feel like you have the flu, you can contact your primary care physician.
You also can use the MUSC.care virtual health service to be evaluated. MUSC.care virtual health or your doctor/nurse practitioner can use testing services to determine the cause of your problem and, more importantly, the best course of treatment.
At this time there is not a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved COVID-19 vaccine. So getting an influenza vaccine is the best way to help lower your risk for having a flu-like illness this fall.
The 2017-2018 influenza season saw 18 consecutive weeks for influenza-like illness and was at or above the state epidemic baseline. That season resulted in a total of 4,489 hospitalizations and 289 deaths statewide.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine, either as a flu shot or nasal spray.
There are many varieties of influenza vaccines. This includes egg-free vaccines as well as higher doses intended for people 65 years and older. There are several places you can get your flu vaccine, either from your work place, physician or a pharmacy, for example.
The most important thing is not to delay getting an influenza vaccine. Vaccines are especially important if you care for an infant under 6 months of age or are in regular contact with other people at high risk should they get the flu. Some high-risk people include those who are pregnant, have a heart or lung condition, diabetes or are 65 years and older.
You should also not be worried about a shortage of the influenza vaccine, since production was increased to a record level of 200 million doses.
Finally, when you, your child or grandchild receive the flu vaccine, ask your physician or nurse if there are any other vaccinations that you might need.
Dr. Temujin Chavez, an internal medicine physician at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center, is board certified in infectious disease. He is accepting new patients. For more information, call 843-674-6400 or visit MUSChealth.org/florence.
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