(WBTV) - South Carolina health officials, along with state leaders are pushing and encouraging people to get the flu shot this fall, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, this may be the most important flu shot of your life,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim South Carolina DHEC Public Health Director. “We’re experiencing the worst public health crisis in 100 years, and it’s never been more important for each and every one of us to stay as healthy as possible. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, and the essential workers and first responders who are tirelessly dedicated in their service to the public as we all endure this pandemic together.”
Contracting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time is possible and could likely cause more complications than if the flu were the sole infection, according to health officials.
The quadrivalent flu vaccine that’s currently available this year protects against the four most common different flu viruses that are expected to circulate this flu season. Flu vaccines are safe, effective and do not cause the flu.
“Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions in history for reducing disease spread and preventing complications and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina Epidemiologist. “So many generations before us would have given anything to have a flu vaccine. With COVID-19′s prevalence across our state, we must use the vaccines that medical science has afforded us to help prevent illness like the flu.”
DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated.
Preventing the flu is particularly important for people who are at increased risk of complications from the virus, including young children, adults aged 50 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions, health officials say.
Receiving your flu shot reduces your chances of contracting the flu, and, if contracted, lessens hospitalizations and deaths due to influenza.
COVID-19 and the flu can have similar symptoms, and they are both serious and potentially deadly diseases. However, it’s important to understand that COVID-19 is causing significantly more hospitalizations and deaths in South Carolina and across the country. When comparing COVID-19 and the flu:
Over the past decade, an average of 36,000 deaths per year in the United States are attributed to flu. The current total of deaths due to COVID-19 is 209,000 nationally.
In South Carolina, over the past six years, there have been an average of 140 flu deaths each year. From March 1-October 7 this year, there have been 3,530 COVID-19 deaths in the state.
Compared to the top causes of death in South Carolina in 2018, COVID-19 would be the third-leading cause of death in South Carolina, ahead of accidents (3,368) and behind heart disease (10,460) and cancer (10,360).