‘Variety of fevers…a lot of vomiting’: Flu hits hard and early this year | music

‘Variety of fevers…a lot of vomiting’: Flu hits hard and early this year |  music

Kristy Brittain, a MUSC Health pharmacist who administers flu shots, knows exactly why they’re so important. This year’s flu season came early and she came home to her family. Brittain’s children caught the flu before they had a chance to get vaccinated. “They had a variety of fevers and a lot of vomiting,” she said.

As you can see from the chart below, they have a lot of company. The flu is back with a vengeance after two years of low case numbers during the pandemic.

The graph shows almost no flu cases in 2020-2021, more next year, and a big increase in 2022-2023.
Graphic from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The top type of flu what is being reported in South Carolina is influenza A. It has infected more than 8,600 people statewide so far this flu season. Influenza B has affected more than 220 people, and a handful of people have been infected with two types of influenza at the same time.

Brittain said at this time that it appears this year’s vaccines are a good match for the flu strains that are circulating. But they only work if people understand them. “I think there are some patients who wait until late November or early December to get vaccinated because they think, ‘Well, most of our spikes end up happening in the colder months when people are really close together.’ But that’s not really happening right now. Getting vaccinated as soon as possible is key.”

Brittain, an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina School of Pharmacy, said the vaccine will not give you the virus. “It is an inactivated vaccine and uses a dead virus. So there’s no chance of someone getting the flu.”

Instead, it will give them protection, causing the body to produce antibodies about two weeks after vaccination. And Brittain recommended that even people who have had the flu, like her own children, get vaccinated. “You could have been exposed to influenza A and then we could see influenza B circulating and you could get sick again.”

Headshot of Dr. Kristy Brittain.  She has long reddish hair and wears a necklace and a jacket.
Dr. Kristy Brittany

She said that MUSC Health is trying to vaccinate as many people as possible. “Our outpatient pharmacies they are helping to fill the need. We are doing this through our vaccine clinics for patients and employees. We are also working with community groups and employers to offer influenza vaccination.”

MUSC Health is also working with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and other health systems to spread the word about flu prevention.. Recommendations include frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, wearing a mask if you are at higher risk of severe illness, and staying home and away from others if you are sick.

The peak of the flu continues a sudden increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in children’s hospitals. RSV especially affects babies, in part because their immune systems are so new. Children under the age of 5 are also at risk for serious flu-related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The good news is that the increase in RSV has slowed down in recent weeks. But the flu stepped in to take its place in both children and adults.

Brittain said people should also be aware of the fact that while there are plenty of flu shots, flu antivirals are on shorter sale. “As we are seeing higher rates of influenza, we are trying to procure antivirals for patients. Tamiflu would be an example that someone would use to treat a case of the flu, or in some cases you’ll have patients who would use it as a preventative if someone in their household has the flu.”

Brittain said many households are already dealing with the virus. “I think it’s going to be a very active flu season, based on what we’re currently seeing. It’s hard to say how long this will continue.”

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