SC one of two worst states in country for respiratory viruses right now

December 15, 2023
Map of United States shows states colored in yellow, orange, green, light green, light red, red and dark red. South Carolina is in dark red.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maps hotspots for viruses.

South Carolina is one of two states that have very high respiratory illness activity right now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The other state with very high activity is Louisiana. 

South Carolina’s ranking comes as no surprise to health care providers at the Medical University of South Carolina, which is tracking respiratory viruses as well. The latest numbers from all MUSC Health hospitals combined show that respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is the biggest driver of respiratory illness at the moment, followed by COVID-19 and the flu.

Dr. Allison Eckard 
Dr. Allison Eckard

Allison Eckard, M.D., division chief for Pediatric Infectious Diseases at MUSC, described the situation at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in Charleston. “I think we are seeing the convergence of RSV and flu peaks overlapping, which is driving a lot of these numbers.We’re starting to see COVID again, and we certainly have some patients who have COVID plus another respiratory virus,” she said.

“It's actually worse this week than last in terms of the patients who are admitted at Shawn Jenkins with respiratory viruses. There are more now than there were.”

Those viruses can cause serious problems. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control recently reported that a child died from complications from the flu. The agency encouraged everyone to get flu and COVID shots and recommended that people who are eligible for RSV vaccines get those as well. 

Eckard said she’s most concerned about the flu right now. She emphasized the value of the vaccine for most people 6 months and older. “The most important message is that people really underestimate how serious influenza is. People think of it as a cold. It is not a cold. It is a virus that can severely affect children, particularly those 2 years of age and under. However, we see an increased risk of severe illness and death in all children 5 years and under, even those with no underlying medical problems,” she said.

“Flu can absolutely cause severe disease and death. The vaccine is very protective against that.”

Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Feeling feverish/chills.
  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Headache.
  • Tiredness.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults).

(Source: CDC)

The flu wave has been building in recent weeks. Last month, so many kids with flu symptoms were turning up at MUSC Children’s Health After Hours Care clinics that the medical director thanked parents for understanding and patience as they faced longer than usual wait times.

Eckard said the current numbers should remind everyone to be aware of the situation. “I think it just goes to show that we are at the peak of respiratory virus season. And that we have to wash our hands, stay away from people who are sick. There's still time to be vaccinated.” 

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