Another six deaths from the flu were confirmed last week, bringing the total number of South Carolinians who've died from the virus to 53 so far this season, state health officials say.
That's up from 38 deaths during the last flu season, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
"This influenza season showed higher rates of influenza infection, hospitalizations and deaths upon comparison to the 2015-16 season," said Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist. "However, this is not unexpected given that this season the predominant circulating strain is influenza A(H3)."
In seasons when that is the dominant strain, she said, there is typically more illness and death. Last season, the predominant strain was A(H1N1) which tends to cause milder disease, she said.
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Sixteen of the deaths occurred in the Upstate while 18 were in the Midlands, DHEC reports. There were 14 in the Lowcountry and five in the PeeDee.
Most of those who died — 42 of them — were 65 and older, one of the groups at highest risk, according to DHEC. Six were between 50 and 64 while four were between 18 and 49. One death was recorded in the 5-to-17 age group.
Those at increased risk of complications include young children, adults 50 and older, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions.
And the flu is still considered widespread.
Meanwhile, vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by half among children with underlying medical conditions and by 65 percent among healthy children, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Flu season typically runs from October to May, peaking in February.
Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, extreme fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Children may also have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Between 3,000 and 49,000 people die from flu each year, depending on the severity of the season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu.