MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The 2019-2020 flu season is officially underway and it’s off to a strong start.
The latest FluView report from the Centers for Disease Control shows about half of the nation reports high or moderate flu activity. Health officials said South Carolina is one of states that’s being hit the hardest.
The early activity is primarily being caused by Influenza B viruses, which CDC officials said is unusual this early in the season.
Data from the CDC shows flu cases have risen steadily over the past few weeks and continue to increase. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is also reporting a widespread increase in activity in its latest flu report.
That DHEC report found that the flu popped up in 14 counties across the state and sent more than 40 people to the hospital. So far, there have been 163 confirmed cases of the flu and four deaths, three which were in the Upstate and one in the Pee Dee.
Symptoms of the flu can include high fever, headache, sore throat, cough, muscle or body aches, and fatigue. CDC officials said the best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated and practice good hygiene.
“Flu is spread by close contact with people around you, so definitely travel, airports, or just being around lots of family, so it’s real important and it’s not too late to get your flu vaccine," said Lindsay Stroud, infection prevention coordinator at Conway Medical Center.
The CDC recommends flu shots for anyone six months of age and older. Doctors said December and February tend to be peak times in the flu season, and the season can last through May.
Doctors said the flu is spread by contact, which is part of the reason it’s seen it in the winter; people are traveling during the holidays, visiting friends and family, and kids are at school.
While some experts think the early and rapid start to this year’s season could mean a sign of a particular intense flu battle this year, others said it’s too early to tell. That’s why health officials said if people haven’t received the flu shot this year, now is the time to do so.
“Children under two years of age, in particular under six months, are considered high risk. Adults over 65 are considered at higher risk. Anybody who’s chronically taking aspirin or an aspirin-containing compound, anyone who is immunocompromised - that’s morbidly obese, that has respiratory illness - that’s all considered high-risk and they definitely should receive the vaccine and avoid contact with people with influenza,” said Dr. David Rosenberg with Grand Strand Health.
Area hospitals like Grand Strand Health and Conway Medical Center are reporting an increase in flu activity over the past two weeks. Health officials said if you think you might have the flu, you should contact a doctor right away.