Flu cases rise dramatically

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

Loading
YORK COUNTY, S.C. —

Flu cases are rising dramatically across the Charlotte area, and for some, the flu shot doesn't seem to be much help.

On Wednesday, doctors in York County said they are seeing plenty of sick patients who took the flu shot.

"One of them is me," said Dr. Robert Lesslie who said he was at home recovering from influenza type A, despite being vaccinated.

'We are seeing quite a few people like that," said Lesslie.

The flu shot is created months ahead of each flu season. Researchers try to target the strains of the virus expected to be the most common in the upcoming year. Doctors said it is a gamble of sorts.

"Medicine is not perfect, and science is not exact," said emergency room Dr. Chris Diorio at Piedmont Medical Center.

"Currently I have a whole family in there. They all got their flu shots, and they all have influenza type A right now," he said.

This year's vaccine protects against several strains of influenza, including H1N1; however the virus itself is always changing and mutating.

"Despite being 2012 almost 2013, we can't treat the common cold. There is no treatment for that, so viruses always sort of win out," Diorio said.

The season's flu is striking hard and early. Just in the last week alone, state health officials tracked 3,287 new positive flu tests in South Carolina.

Amazingly, over the same week last year there were only 19 reported.

From Sept. 30 to Dec. 1 the state has logged 5,244 positive flu tests, compared to just 106 in the same span in 2011.

Diorio said he believes the flu shot is actually more effective than ever against the specific strains of the virus it is meant to target.

However it is not 100 percent effective at preventing you from getting sick. Yet doctors still recommend that high risk groups take the shot.

That includes young children, the elderly and those who are ill.

"The flu shot saves lives; there is no doubt about it. Influenza kills people even this day. Hundreds of people, thousands of people," said Diorio.

This week about 10 percent of the people visiting the emergency room at Piedmont Medical Center are there with the flu or flu-like symptoms.

Doctors said even if the flu shot doesn't entirely prevent the virus from making you sick, it can shorten the length of your illness or lessen the symptoms which could keep you from being hospitalized.

Flu cases in South Carolina are currently categorized as widespread according to state health officials.

New numbers on flu cases were expected to be released late Wednesday.