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It’s flu season in Kershaw County

Posted: December 20, 2013 4:38 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.

There have been nearly 100 cases of the flu in Kershaw County since the end of September, according to figures provided by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Paula Guild, KershawHealth’s director of infection prevention and control, said the week of Sept. 29 -- known as Week 40 -- is the week the flu season officially began and cases of influenza-like illnesses are recorded.

Guild said healthcare providers typically perform what is known as a “rapid flu” test on patients who present influenza-like symptoms. Guild said another test -- a viral culture -- is more sophisticated, revealing which strain of the flu an individual has contracted. A viral culture is only taken if a rapid flu test identifies the patient as actually having the flu. In addition, viral cultures are taken when symptoms are deemed severe enough that the patient has been admitted to an intensive care unit or if DHEC asks a hospital to send a specimen for a viral culture at the beginning, middle and the end of the flu season.

DHEC’s Division of Acute Disease Epidemiology reported 62 positive rapid flu tests in Kershaw County as of Week 50, Dec. 8-14. Cumulatively, since Sept. 29, there have been 99 positive rapid flu tests in Kershaw County. Also since Sept. 29, there have been three positive viral culture tests from Kershaw County. Those three positive tests identified the flu those particular patients contracted as the influenza A H1N1 strain.

Dr. Theresa Alderson, a pediatrician at Sandhill Medical Foundation, said that she has seen “a myriad of infectious conditions” in her young patients this flu season.

“I have seen some cases of the flu, with your typical fever and body ache misery,” Alderson said, adding that the actual cases of flu she had seen involved teenagers. “In younger children, I’ve seen lots of colds, sometimes with fevers and other symptoms not accompanied by body aches. There have been cases of strep. There’s a whole variety of ‘ick’ out there right now.”

Alderson said that hand washing is still “a mainstay” in flu prevention.

“We also tell patients to keep their hands off their faces,” she said. “That’s how we inoculate.”

Dr. Tallulah Holmstrom of Sentinel Health Partners said that her office has “seen an increase in diagnosed and suspected flu cases across all age groups (pediatric to geriatric).” She added that “flu season has definitely arrived.”

Three kinds of flu viruses commonly circulate among people today, Guild said: influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2), and influenza B. Guild also suggested that flu vaccination shots are a good way to protect against the flu viruses experts predict will be the most common during the season.

Holmstrom stated that the majority of positive flu tests she has seen seem to be in patients who did not receive a flu shot, though there were still a few cases where an individual contracted the flu even after receiving the vaccination. Holmstrom said that even though the flu is already present in Kershaw County, “it’s never too late to get the flu shot…we encourage non-vaccinated individuals to consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Like Alderson, Holmstrom encourages frequent hand washing and adds that “seeking prompt assessment should one become ill (with such symptoms as) fever, chills, cough, muscle and joint pains. There are now medications available that can limit the severity of influenza and shorten the duration of symptoms.”

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