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Keeping watch over flu activity is critical to limiting its damage

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.

Protect yourself

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.

DHEC in the News: Flu, sewage discharge, American Heart Month & more

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

DHEC: Week 8 of high-activity flu season brings second child death to South Carolina

Horry County, S.C. (WPDE) — The eighth week of flu season brought the second flu-related child death of this year, according to a report by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

In its weekly flu watch report, DHEC said the week of Feb. 18 to Feb. 24 was the 11th consecutive week of widespread flu activity.

2 million gallons of sewage discharged into the Stono River

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Department of Health and Environmental control says an estimated 2.4 million gallons of sewage discharged into the headwaters of the Stono River over the course of 8 days.

According to DHEC, the Town of Hollywood noticed disruption of flow in a wastewater line on February 19, 2018. The disruption indicated a problem with the collection system.

Take care of your heart during Heart Health Month

Heart disease is a leading cause of early death and disability in South Carolina. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control encourages residents to adopt habits to keep their hearts healthy.

In 2016, heart disease was the second leading cause of death in the Palmetto State. But small changes can make a big difference.

General Interest

1 in 14 women still smokes while pregnant, CDC says

(CNN)About one in 14 pregnant women who gave birth in the United States in 2016 smoked cigarettes during her pregnancy, according to a report released Wednesday.

The findings, gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, revealed that 7.2% of all expectant mothers smoked — but that the percentage of pregnant smokers varied widely from state to state.

DHEC in the News: Flu, diabetes prevention, opioids

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

Aiken County still above state baseline for flu

Aiken County had a decrease in flu cases at the beginning of February, but for the week of Feb. 4 to 10, there were 632 lab-confirmed and positive rapid cases per 100,000 people, according to South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

There were 18,372 cases state-wide for that week, which is a decrease of 3.3 percent from the previous week, according to data provided by DHEC. There have been 99,791 cases during the entire flu season.

No excuses: RMC HealthPlex Diabetes Prevention Program changing lives for the better

As the second month of 2018 winds down, many of us are aggravated with ourselves for not sticking to our New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, exercise and lose weight.

One group of Orangeburg residents, however, were on track to reach those goals after attending their second week of the intensive 16-week Diabetes Prevention Class at the Regional Medical Center’s HealthPlex in Orangeburg. The program kicked off on Jan. 23.

General Interest

ER Reduces Opioid Use By More Than Half With Dry Needles, Laughing Gas

One of the places many people are first prescribed opioids is a hospital emergency room. But in one of the busiest ERs in the U.S., doctors are relying less than they used to on oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin and other opioids to ease patients’ pain.

In an unusual program designed to help stem the opioid epidemic, the emergency department at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., has been exploring alternative painkillers and methods. That strategy has led to a 58 percent drop in the ER’s opioid prescriptions in the program’s first year, according to numbers provided by St. Joseph’s Healthcare System’s chair of emergency medicine, Dr. Mark Rosenberg.

DHEC in the News: Opioids, HIV, flu

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

What’s new with the opioid epidemic? You!

LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) – It’s a story that keeps making headlines – the opioid addiction problem.

Every few days a news story highlights the growing number of those addicted and the deaths that come as a result.

A doctor at Lexington Medical Center says there is something new in the fight against the opioid problem. It’s you.

Lowcountry AIDS Services tested a record number of HIV positive people in January

A local nonprofit that provides free HIV testing is warning that it tested more people positive for the virus in January than in any other month in its 20-year history.

North Charleston-based Lowcountry AIDS Services says seven people tested positive in the month of January, the largest number in a single month. In contrast, no one tested positive in January 2017.

General Interest

Widespread flu causing large shortage in blood donations in South Carolina

The Blood Connection is appealing for donors because the flu is keeping regular donors at home.

“When donors are unable to keep their scheduled appointments because of the flu, the community blood supply drops,” said Dr. Robert Rainer, medical director at the agency.

DHEC in the News: Flu, National Children’s Dental Health Month, treatment for babies born to drug-addicted mothers

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

South Carolina sees first child die from flu this season

A child who has died in the Midlands from complications associated with the flu is the first pediatric fatality reported to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control this flu season.

Health information privacy laws shield hospitals and agencies from revealing patients’ county of residence and age.

“We extend our condolences to this family and all families in South Carolina who have suffered a loss during this flu season,” said Lillian Peake, DHEC director of public health.

Local church bumping elbows during ‘sign of peace’ instead of shaking hands, hugging during flu season

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The flu continues to sweep the nation and now it’s causing some churches across the country to take precautions. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is calling this flu season the worst it’s been in nearly a decade. As the numbers of flu related deaths continue to rise, churches across the country are altering their services to prevent passing the virus. One local church in Myrtle Beach is doing something unique. Surfside United Methodist Church encourages elbow bumping at the beginning of the service during the passing of the peace and at the end of service, all in an effort to prevent spreading germs.

S.C. dental health needs a brush-up

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month – and South Carolina needs to take notice.

Reports show some children are missing hours of school each year because of oral health problems, causing them to lose out on critical instruction time. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is encouraging parents to turn their little ones into scholars by helping them improve their oral health habits.

Born addicted: Greenville hospital pioneers new way to treat babies in withdrawal

A baby born to a drug-addicted mom can suffer tremors, sleeplessness, muscle stiffness and other symptoms of withdrawal.

She might wail uncontrollably, be unable to relax or refuse to eat.

She might even have seizures.

And the traditional medical response has been to allow these infants to go into full withdrawal before treating them, said Dr. Jennifer Hudson, medical director of newborn services at Greenville Memorial Hospital.