What to do about the flu?
The flu is making its annual presence known - and, as medical professionals warn, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Daniel Island, like many communities across the South Carolina and the nation, is not immune to the impacts of the pesky bug, which can bring fever, fatigue, stomach upset, congestion and other symptoms to those who catch it.
As of Jan. 17, Dr. Lucy Davis of Palmetto Primary Care on Daniel Island reported that the practice had already seen 35 cases of the flu.
“Compared to last year this time, we are definitely seeing more cases and it seems to be a bit more severe,” said Davis. “…We have not seen any severe cases at our site, at least not any that required hospitalization, but there have been at least 15 reported flu-related deaths in SC, which was reported to be twice what it was this time last year.”
Local schools are also seeing an impact from the flu, as several students stayed home sick last week. But so far, the number of absences has been low overall. As of last Wednesday, Jan. 17, Daniel Island School Principal Kori Brown reported that less than one percent of the student body had missed school due to the flu.
“We have 11 students absent [Jan. 16 and 17] out of our 1200 students with symptoms of flu,” said Brown. “Nine of those have confirmed a flu diagnosis, so less than one percent of our enrollment. We did send home a DHEC flyer today about the flu with hand washing reminders.”
Bishop England High School had 37 confirmed flu diagnoses as of Friday, Jan. 19, representing approximately eight percent of their enrollment, explained Dean of Students Mary Anne B. Tucker.
“The nurse doesn’t always get the confirmed diagnosis when a child is out sick, but she has had 37 students in which flu has been confirmed to us,” said Tucker. “We also had another teacher and a few more students leave today, and they were showing flu-like symptoms.”
Supplies of Tamiflu, an anti-viral used to ease flu symptoms and potentially shorten the bug’s duration, were flying off the shelves at Delta Pharmacy on Daniel Island, noted Pharmacist Neely Kelleher. Last Friday morning, the location was out of the prescription but a new shipment was expected to arrive later in the day.
“We’ve seen a huge rise,” said Kelleher. “We’ve been filling lots of prescriptions for Tamiflu every day for about the last month.”
Another flu remedy in high demand is elderberry syrup, reports Daniel Island resident Sara Gail, a registered dietician who makes the product in her home and sells it from a cooler on her front porch. According to Gail, elderberries contain hemagglutinin, a protein that has been shown to stop a virus’ capability to replicate by inhibiting its ability to penetrate the cell wall, thereby preventing the virus from causing infection if taken before exposed. Gail is selling anywhere from 100 to 300 bottles per week now that flu season is in full swing.
“I am trying hard to keep up with the demand,” she said. “I am making fresh batches daily during flu season…It starts working immediately, especially if you start taking it once daily for prevention.”
In the state, a total of 26,359 cases of the flu have been reported to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) this flu season, 9,864 of which were reported from Jan. 7 to Jan. 13.
Even though these rates seem high, according to SCDHEC they are in line with data from previous years.
“SC influenza activity significantly increased this week,” the weekly SCDHEC flu watch states. “The current influenza season activity appears to be similar to activity observed in the 2014-15 season.”
According to Davis, the most common symptoms of the flu are high fevers that are typically greater than 101 degrees, body aches, head ache and cough.
“It can also be associated with nasal congestion, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” said Davis. “If you have symptoms that are flu-like, see your doctor to be tested. There are medications which can shorten the course of the illness. You are contagious for at least five days, so please stay home and away from the public to prevent the spread any further.”
If the flu is left untreated, complications can arise, continued Davis.
“The most common complications of the flu are a superimposed secondary bacterial infection like pneumonia and dehydration,” said Davis.
In order to prevent the flu, there are many measures one can take, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), though, getting the flu vaccine yearly is the most essential way to fight the illness.
“While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research suggests will be most common,” the CDC website states. “Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins in their community. CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, if possible.”
Other preventative measures include avoiding close contact with sick people; covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing; regularly washing hands with soap and water; avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth; and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that could be contaminated.
If interested in learning more about the flu and ways to prevent and treat it, visit www.cdc.gov.
Test your FLU I.Q.!
Think you know all about the flu? Test your knowledge and take the CDC’s “Flu I.Q.” quiz below!
TRUE OR FALSE?
A flu vaccine can’t give you the flu.
The flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. The viruses in the vaccine are either killed (flu shot) or weakened (nasal spray vaccine), which means they cannot cause infection.
The “stomach flu” and influenza are the same thing.
The flu is a respiratory (lung) disease, not a stomach or intestinal disease. The main symptoms of the flu are fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults.
Getting a flu vaccine in December or later is not too late.
The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available and that vaccination can continue into December, January and beyond. Influenza activity usually peaks in February most years, but disease can occur as late as May.
Flu viruses change constantly, which requires a new flu vaccine to be produced each year.
The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on worldwide monitoring of influenza viruses.
Washing your hands is the best thing you can do to protect against the flu.
The CDC recommends a flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu. However, preventative actions like covering your cough and washing your hands often are important everyday steps that can help stop the spread of germs.
The flu vaccine protects against three strains of flu.
While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.
The flu is typically spread through coughs and/or sneezes.
Flu virus is mainly spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes.
The flu is not a serious illness.
Flu is a serious contagious disease. Each year in the United States, on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and 36,000 people die from flu.
The flu vaccine is available as a shot or a nasal spray.
Flu vaccine is also available as a nasal spray (brand name FluMist®). The nasal spray flu vaccine is an option for healthy* people age 2-49 who are not pregnant. *”Healthy” indicates persons who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.
You can spread the flu to others before you have symptoms.
Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.