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NEWS | March 4, 2015

Achoo! Is it the Flu?

By By A1C Marion Turner 628th Aerospace Medicine Squadron

It's the height of flu season.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, as of Feb. 25, 2015 there have been 58,939 cases of flu reported in South Carolina this season. Of those cases reported, there have been 2,780 hospitalizations and 132 confirmed deaths.  In the Tri-County area, there have already been 7,412 confirmed flu cases in Charleston County with seven resulting in death, 569 in Berkeley County and 1,330 in Dorchester County with four deaths.
Flu season officially started in October and continues through May.

How do you know if you have a common cold or if you have the flu? A cold is a milder illness than the flu. While cold symptoms usually only last a few days, flu symptoms may last a week or more. Common cold symptoms usually begin with a sore throat, followed by a runny nose and congestion. Flu symptoms include (but are not limited to) high fever (100.4 F), headache, fatigue and body aches.  With the flu, one or more symptoms will occur about 48 to 72 hours after contact with the virus. The flu can also cause serious health problems such as pneumonia and hospitalization. The populations that are most vulnerable to the flu are children six months to 5 years old; people 50 years and older; people who are immunosuppressed and people who have chronic medical conditions.

Contrary to anecdotal evidence, the injected flu vaccine does not cause the flu because it contains only dead flu virus.    However, there are mild side effects you may feel such as soreness, redness and swelling at the shot site, low grade fever and aches. Another flu vaccination is the nasal spray. This method does have a live virus but it has been weakened and, therefore, cannot cause the flu. Side effects of the nasal spray include running nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, fever and cough. Any side effects experienced after vaccination should be mild and short lasting.

There are things that can be done to help reduce the risk of getting the flu and prevent passing it to others. Get the flu vaccine every year, try to get as much rest as possible and hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of adults between the age of 18 and 49 who have received an influenza vaccination is only 29.6 percent. As of Feb. 26, 2015, Joint Base Charleston had an influenza immunization rate of 99.3 percent (active duty members only). Everyone is urged to receive the flu vaccination as soon as possible. It is highly recommended and is the best line of protection.

Taking these small, precautionary steps may help prevent the flu. However, if you start exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, do not hesitate to see your local doctor.  Protecting yourself during flu season is pivotal to not only your health but to those around you.

Information obtained from The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control