The current flu season is earlier and remarkably worse than the last season, prompting health officials to remind people to take all precautions to defend against the spread of the flu virus.
Through the end of November, physicians had reported 5,922 positive rapid flu tests in the state, compared to just 173 at this stage last year, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The hardest hit counties were Greenville (565 positive tests), Richland (398), Anderson (336), York (224), Pickens (200), Lexington (194) and Charleston (168).
Through Dec. 1, there had been 131 flu-related hospitalizations and five flu-related deaths. As usual, the highest rates of serious problems have been in the very young (ages 0-4) and very old (ages 65-older).
Health officials say the first line of defense against flu should be immunization. Flu shots are available in physicians offices, pharmacies and clinics throughout the state. Medicaid, Medicare and many private health insurances pay for the shots. If you’re concerned about cost, most facilities charge in the $25 to $30 range. MEDcare Urgent Care Center, which recently opened two new facilities in the Midlands, offers the shots for $12 at those offices at 110 Medical Circle in West Columbia and 7418 Garners Ferry Road in Columbia.