South Carolina's deaths from flu up sharply compared with last season's toll

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina — State health officials say the number of deaths from the flu this year are up sharply, compared with last season.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that more people have died from the flu since September that died in the previous two seasons combined.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control says 141 flu-related deaths this season. Fewer than 80 people died during last season's outbreak.

Four years ago, 20 people died from the flu in South Carolina.

Most of those who have died this season have been age 65 and older.

DHEC reports nearly 3,000 patients have been admitted to hospitals with the flu this season. Fewer than 2,000 people were hospitalized in each of the last two flu seasons.

Dr. Steve Shelton with Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia says the season appears to have peaked in December. But the risk of the illness continues until June.

The flu is still out there," said Dr. Matthew Crist, an epidemiologist with DHEC. "As long as flu is still circulating, it's still beneficial to get (the vaccine), and we encourage people to do so."

Experts think this season has been deadlier than others, in part, because the flu vaccine was relatively ineffective against the dominant H3N2 "A'' strain.

Information from: The Post and Courier,

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