Georgia, South Carolina taking a beating this flu season

emergency room
emergency room(WCAX)
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 12:57 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - After flu cases dropped off during the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus is surging ahead of Thanksgiving – with Georgia and South Carolina among the hardest-hit states.

Officials with South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control report infections are at a 10-year high, up 100 times compared to this point last year, while hospitalizations are 50 times higher.

The case total is not only higher but flu is spreading much earlier than in recent years.

Health experts in both states are advising everyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu shot.

“There’s definitely a lot of concern about the amount of flu activity we’re already seeing and what might happen as people start traveling for the holidays,” said Dr. Jonathan Knoche, a medical consultant with the South Carolina health agency.

“Getting the flu vaccine is the most important thing to provide protection,” he said. “It does take some time for the body to mount its full immunity, but getting it already today before you might travel does provide some level of protection.”

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report South Carolina is experiencing widespread flu activity. The Palmetto State along with Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and the District of Columbia are where the illness is spreading most extensively.

And Georgia isn’t far behind, just one notch down on the CDC’s scale.

CDC flu map shows where the virus is spreading worst.
CDC flu map shows where the virus is spreading worst.(Contributed)

Doctors say it is still too early to know if the early flu peak is seeing means numbers will also come down earlier or whether it indicates a long winter of prolonged illness.

DHEC said it looks like this year’s flu shot is a good match to provide protection against the flu.

But Knoche added it only works if people get the shot.

“About 50% of people over the age of 65 have received their flu vaccine, but for the younger populations, it’s only around 15%,” Knoche said. “So a lot of young people have a long ways to go to get protection not only for themselves from the flu but also to protect the people around them.”

Public health experts have been warning about a potential “triple-demic” of the flu, RSV, and COVID this winter.

COVID numbers are low in South Carolina right now, but DHEC cautions that the situation is similar to how it looked this time last year before the state experienced a huge surge of the omicron variant in January.