Lab reports have confirmed that more South Carolinians have died from the flu this season compared to last year during the same time frame, according to state officials.
A total of eight lab confirmed deaths have been reported since Sept. 28 — the beginning of flu season — according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s most recent flu report. Six died from the flu during the same period in the 2013-14 flu season.
Greenville Health System on Tuesday requested that children under the age of 18 or anyone with signs of the flu refrain from visiting hospitalized patients because of the high levels of flu and respiratory illnesses now in the Upstate.
The latest DHEC report says 514 people have been hospitalized because of lab-confirmed flu. That’s a 53.9 percent increase compared to last flu season.
GHS is also requesting that anyone with signs of respiratory illness or cold temporarily refrain from visiting hospitalized patients.
Hospital officials say the measure will help protect patients from contracting the flu and respiratory illnesses. It will also help protect visiting children from becoming ill and help contain the spread of the illnesses in the broader community.
“The safety and well-being of our patients, visitors and staff are our highest priority,” said Dr. Angelo Sinopoli, chief medical officer.
“As such, we are taking this important step to help prevent the spread of the flu in our hospitals and ensure everyone’s safety during what is proving to be a very busy flu season.”
A mandatory visitation restriction isn’t in effect, but infection prevention experts at GHS urge visitors.
“Reports of cases and hospitalizations have been rising, further emphasizing the need for continued efforts to vaccinate against this serious illness, as well as take other preventive steps such as covering your cough with your sleeve or a tissue, staying home if you are sick, and washing your hands often with soap and water,” said Dr. Matthew Crist, DHEC’s healthcare-associated infections section director.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that between 5 percent and 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu, and it is estimated that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized on average for flu-related complications each year.