Lots of folks in the Midlands got something they didn’t want for Christmas — the flu.
The I-20 corridor was a hot spot for new influenza cases during the week of Dec. 22-28, with 355 new positive rapid flu tests in Aiken, Lexington, Richland and Kershaw counties, according to the weekly update from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
For the first time this flu season, the state also crept above the 2 percent baseline that marks a serious flu outbreak. During the week ending Dec. 28, 2.72 percent of patients at participating physician offices reported flu-like symptoms. This season is still well below last season’s peak of more than 6 percent of patients with such symptoms, but it’s still early. Flu cases typically peak in February in South Carolina.
During Christmas week, physicians and clinics reported 200 positive rapid flu cases in Aiken County alone, along with 72 in Richland, 64 in Kershaw and 19 in Lexington. Statewide, there were 1,516 new positive rapid tests during the week.
DHEC reported 190 flu-related hospitalizations and three flu-related deaths during the week, bringing the totals to 785 hospitalizations and nine deaths since the season started in late September.
Flu symptoms can include quick onset of high fever, severe body aches, headaches, lethargy, a dry cough, sore throat and a runny nose.
State health officials say the best defenses are to get a flu shot, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, cough into the crook of your elbow and stay home when you are sick.
While a flu shot’s immunity doesn’t take affect for about two weeks, getting a shot now still could reduce the chances of contracting flu late in the season.