COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina reported three additional flu deaths the week of Christmas as the number of cases in the state continued to rise.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control said Friday that nine people have now died in South Carolina since the flu season began in September. Three of the deaths have been in Charleston County, with one death apiece in Beaufort, Berkeley, Dorchester, Horry, Orangeburg and Richland counties.
DHEC said about 14,000 cases of the flu have been reported so far this season, with about 800 patients sick enough to end up in the hospital.
But this season isn’t as bad as last season. In the last week of 2012, South Carolina had already reported 15 deaths and almost 33,000 flu cases.
“It remains to be seen if we are going to see as large of a peak of flu as last year. It certainly hit us earlier last year,” said Dr. V Leigh Beasley, a medical consultant for DHEC.
Last flu season was especially unusual because it peaked so early. There was a secondary peak in March, but there weren’t nearly the number of cases reported in the winter as before Christmas 2012.
Doctors typically expect to see more flu cases in January because people return from traveling and end up in classrooms and offices, where the germs can easily spread.
“It’s not too late to get your flu shot,” Beasley said. “And it’s a good general practice — if you are ill, stay home. Don’t infect your co-workers and don’t carry your influenza to school or church or some other social gathering.”
Unlike North Carolina, no hospitals in South Carolina have started limiting visitors because of the flu. Thirteen people have died from flu in North Carolina, with most of them between the ages of 25 and 64. The ages of South Carolina’s flu victims have been more spread out.
Across the country, the highest rates of flu have been reported in Texas, Missouri, Mississippi and Alabama, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.