Midlands doctor on H1N1 in SC: "We will see deaths with this"

By Jordan Sandler - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - DHEC says a Midlands child died from complications related to H1N1, the state's first swine flu-related death. One Midlands doctor says this summer could be the calm before the storm.

"We will see deaths with this," said Dr. Helmet Albrecht.

Albrecht says swine flu never left South Carolina since it arrived in April. Most flu strains die off in warm weather then return in the winter, but H1N1 survived the heat of summer.

"This worries us that this never went away," said Albrecht.

DHEC leaders say there are more than 500 cases lingering in the state. They stress the first death does not mean the virus is getting stronger.

"If anything, it's reassuring that we've only had one death in South Carolina," said Albrecht.

Albrecht says to put it in perspective, the traditional flu kills more than 700 South Carolinians a year.

Swine flu does not appear to be as deadly. However, he says you're at greater risk to die from swine flu if you have asthma or lung disease.

"With influenza virus, you essentially inhale and it attacks our lung," he said.

The weaker your lungs, the more likely a case of swine flu could send you to the hospital.

Albrecht says there is no need to panic, just take basic safety precautions. Cover coughs and sneezes, stay home if you're sick.

He says you may have to be more careful when the weather gets cooler.

"It's too early where this is gonna go when we go into the winter season," said Albrecht.

So what about the swine flu vaccine? The Centers for Disease Control says it's still being tested for safety and effectiveness.   
The vaccine should arrive in South Carolina in late October. DHEC says there will be enough for those who need it.

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