The Flu is Hitting The South Hard This Season

December 28, 2023
2 mins read

Health officials urge South Carolinians to get the flu shot as the Palmetto State ties with Louisiana as worst in the nation for flu activity.

More than 1,100 people have been hospitalized during the current flu season, which typically starts the first week of October, according to the most recent numbers from the state’s public health agency. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control has confirmed more than 19,000 cases of influenza.

Twelve people have died, including one child, according to the data as of Dec. 16.

Nearly 13 percent of all South Carolinians who sought treatment, whether at a doctor’s office or clinic, the week of Dec. 10-16 had a flu-like illness. That means they had a fever of 100 degrees or higher as well as a cough and/or sore throat. Normal is 3%, according to the agency.

“While it’s true that most people that get RSV, flu and COVID will have mild illnesses and recover, sometimes people become very sick and even die from these illnesses,” Dr. Martha Buchanan, lead medical consultant for the state health agency, said during a briefing Thursday on respiratory illnesses in the state.

It is too early to tell if flu season has reached its peak in South Carolina, Buchanan said, but the number of people hospitalized or going to the doctor with flu-like symptoms has surpassed last year’s top numbers.

“We’re not done with flu yet,” Buchanan said.

These high rates of sickness prompted the state’s largest hospital system, Prisma Health, to restrict visitation of children under age 16 as of Wednesday.

“We are doing this to protect our patients, their loved ones and our own team members against the spread of seasonal flu and other respiratory illnesses,” Dr. Sangita Dash, an infectious disease specialist at Prisma Health said in a statement.

As many as 20% of patients admitted to Prisma Health hospitals have come with the flu, the hospital system reported.

Buchanan said she did not know of any other hospital systems in the state taking similar precautions.

The flu vaccine has proven effective against this year’s dominant flu strains and state health officials say getting vaccinated is the best way for people to reduce the risk of serious illness. Buchanan recommended everyone six months old and older who is eligible get a flu shot.

The state offers free and low-cost vaccinations at local health departments.

While it takes a couple weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, it does provide some early protection.

“Wash your hands regularly. Wear a mask. Cover your cough and sneezes and please stay home if you’re sick,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said cases of RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, were also high this year but have leveled off in recent weeks.

There is now a vaccine, the first of its kind released this year, for preventing RSV in older adults ages 60 and up. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an antibody treatment for infants.

Don't Miss