Flu seasons such as the one South Carolina and the nation have been enduring reminds us why it is so important to monitor flu activity.
Severe flu seasons can be devastating, and even milder influenza seasons cause missed work and school time, hospitalizations and deaths.
Keeping an eye on diseases
Each year, DHEC and U.S. public health experts monitor influenza and other diseases. This activity is called disease surveillance.
Surveillance of influenza plays a big role in understanding the spread of the disease, as well as the severity of potential epidemics. Although surveillance can tell us the trend of influenza illness in South Carolina, it cannot tell us exactly how many cases of flu there are in the state. This is because not everyone who gets the flu goes to the doctor to get tested, and we have no way of monitoring unreported cases of flu.
Flu surveillance allows DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see what impact flu is having on the health of residents. In South Carolina, influenza surveillance consists of several components. Each component provides different types of information about influenza; together, they create a solid overview of influenza activity in the state.
The benefits of surveillance
Surveillance helps us to:
- Understand which new flu viruses are circulating in South Carolina (The types of influenza virus that infect people often change from one flu season to the next.);
- Establish when the influenza virus first appears in the state and also when it decreases;
- Determine where in the state the influenza virus is circulating; and
- Understand what types of vaccines are most likely to succeed the following year.
DHEC produces a weekly summary of reported influenza activity in South Carolina in a report called Flu Watch. Visit the DHEC website for more information and the latest update of Flu Watch. Also, visit the CDC’s website for national statistics on flu.
DHEC and CDC recommend that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine, because it is the best way to combat the flu. It is also important to take other preventive actions, such as limiting contact with sick people and washing your hands frequently.