South Carolina Health Leaders Caution Residents to Take Actions to Reduce Impacts of Respiratory Illnesses

A road sign reading "flu season ahead."

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA), Lexington Medical Center (LMC), McLeod Health, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and Prisma Health are teaming up to caution residents to take actions now to reduce impacts of respiratory illnesses on our state’s families and hospitals.

Such illnesses include respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza (flu) and COVID-19.

South Carolina is already experiencing an active flu season. In mid-October, DHEC confirmed the first flu-related death in South Carolina and it recently confirmed the first pediatric flu-related death for the current season, which is a sober reminder to us all that the flu is already here and that it can be deadly.

“Although we are early into the new flu season, we already are experiencing widespread activity and we are preparing for significant flu activity this year,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “It’s critical that everyone who is eligible get their flu shot now to protect themselves and others. That is especially important for older residents, people with chronic health conditions and very young children.”

Whenever there is widespread activity of respiratory illnesses circulating in our communities as is currently occurring, it is possible to get sick with one or more of these illnesses. Most people who get sick have mild cases and recover in one to two weeks. However, this is not the case for everyone. Critical illnesses are occurring, and it is important for you to know your risks and take actions now to prevent getting severely sick.

People most at risk for severe illness and complications from these respiratory illnesses are infants, young children, older adults, pregnant people and those with chronic medical conditions.

“For more than two years, the state’s hospitals and health systems have served on the frontlines of the pandemic, encouraging South Carolinians to take precautionary measures, such as handwashing, and access the appropriate immunizations to reduce infections,” said Thornton Kirby, President and CEO of SCHA. “Now we are asking individuals to utilize those same measures to stem the tide of flu, RSV and potential COVID cases impacting our healthcare providers.”

Take these steps daily to reduce the impacts of respiratory illnesses on yourself, your loved ones and our state’s hospitals, which are seeing a dramatic rise in the number of patients.

  • Wash your hands often
  • Cover your cough or sneeze
  • Wear a mask if you are most at risk
  • Stay home and away from others when sick
  • Get vaccinated for flu and COVID-19

When you get vaccinated, you reduce your risk of getting sick and possibly being hospitalized or dying from flu or COVID-19 or having long-term complications. It will take your body about two weeks from your vaccination date to build up maximum immunity against the flu or COVID-19. It is also safe and convenient to get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time. You can get these low or no cost vaccinations at a DHEC health department, a local pharmacy or your health care provider. To learn more, visit scdhec.gov or cdc.gov.