Flu spikes earlier than usual

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Starting Monday, Springs Memorial Hospital to temporarily limit visitation

By Greg Summers

Springs Memorial Hospital announced Friday, Nov. 30, it is implementing a temporary limited visitation policy due to the high number of flu cases in the area.

According to a news release from the hospital, the temporary policy, which begins Monday, Dec. 3, limits visitation for the following:

• Children under age 12 will not be allowed to visit patient rooms and emergency room patients.

• Those with respiratory infection symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose or fever) are asked not to visit SMH until those conditions have passed.

The hospital is making protective masks available at the reception desk in the lobby should visitors want them when visiting patients.

SMH will issue a notice when the visitation restrictions are lifted.

Lancaster isn’t the only Palmetto State county dealing with an unusually active early flu season.

“Our latest statewide activity report indicates that influenza has quickly reached widespread levels in South Carolina,” said Dr. Linda Bell, interim state epidemiologist with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

“Flu activity typically peaks in February and it is very unusual for us to see this number of cases so early in the season,” she said. “Therefore, we strongly encourage vaccination to prevent the flu and its potentially serious consequences.”

DHEC reports that since September, there have been 1,976 positive rapid flu tests in South Carolina, including 1,232 in the last week. That includes 34 positive rapid flu tests in Lancaster County, and four positive confirmatory cases determined by lab work, said DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley.

“There is enough positive activity in Lancaster County to indicate some concern,” Beasley said. “I’m sure the local hospital is taking this step to be proactive for its patients.” 

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It can be a mild to severe illness, DHEC says. Symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat and nasal congestion.

Bell said it can also be especially serious for the very young and elderly.

“Tragically, a child from Barnwell County has become our first confirmed influenza-associated death of the season,” Bell said. 

Bell said one of the best ways to prevent serious consequences of the flu is through vaccination. DHEC recommends vaccinations for everyone age 6 months and older.

“This year’s vaccine appears to be well matched for the circulating influenza strains and is expected to provide good protection,” Bell said.

Bell also recommends:

• Staying away from people who are sick

• Stay home from work, school and errands if you are sick to help keep others from getting sick.

• Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue if one is handy and throw it away immediately after use. Otherwise, use your upper sleeve.

• Wash your hands often and thoroughly.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when someone touches something covered in germs and then touches their eyes, nose and mouth.

“Other good habits include getting plenty of sleep, engaging in physical activity, managing stress, drinking water and eating good foods to help you stay healthy in the winter and all year,” Bell said.     


 Contact Greg Summers at (803) 283-1156