Experts provide safety tips as flu death toll rises

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling this flu season the worst in nearly a decade.

Just last week, there were 22 deaths in South Carolina. Dr. Paul Richardson at Conway Medical Center said they have had two patients pass away this flu season. Both cases were adults and they had other complicating issues.

Influenza can affect any age group, but according to the CDC, children younger than 5 and adults 65 or older are at high risk for developing flu-related complications.

"Usually the older population, they may have other complications that may complicate the condition and younger patients are more susceptible to these types of infections," Richardson said.

He added most people usually die from the influenza due to respiratory or other complications like pneumonia and even sepsis. Richardson said if someone is diagnosed with the flu and are experiencing symptoms like a high fever, shortness of breath or excessive coughing, they should see a doctor immediately.

Some people are trying Elderberry. Advocates say it's a natural remedy for the flu. Richardson, though, is not yet convinced.

"I've seen a lot on social media on Elderberry juice. I did a little research into that because I'm not trained in that kind of medicine. There are actually some small studies with Elderberry juice and they actually look promising. Now that being said, I wouldn't say it's a recommendation, but I would say there was nothing in those studies that appeared to be negative, but these were very small studies," he said.

Tamiflu, the antiviral drug, is not only used to treat the virus but also prevent it for those who are more vulnerable and exposed.

CDC officials said there are about two weeks left of the peak flu season. Richardson thinks the worst may have passed, noting they are no longer seeing the number of cases rise week to week.

"Well fortunately, we seem to have started to peak out. We don't have a trend yet but our influenza A positive rate went down significantly last week. Our Bs, which have always been the last, has held stable, not going up, so I'm hopeful," he said. "Fingers crossed that we have seen the peak."

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