DHEC reports 11 confirmed flu deaths in South Carolina last week

Map showing the total number of confirmed flu cases this season, by county. Source: DHEC.
Map showing the total number of confirmed flu cases this season, by county. Source: DHEC.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF/WSMV) - Catching the flu is never a pleasant experience for anyone to have, and it can be especially dangerous if someone's life is on the line because of it.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported that while flu activity deceased slightly last week, there were 11 lab-confirmed deaths from influenza in South Carolina. There have been 41 deaths since September 29, 2013.

Also last week, 160 people were hospitalized in South Carolina due to a lab-confirmed case of the flu, with seven confirmed cases of the flu coming from Horry County.

Dr. Corey Slovis, director of the emergency room at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says it's not just that people are getting sick.

"The people that have gotten seriously ill, the vast majority of hospitalized patients - here and across the country - have been young and healthy but have not gotten the flu shot. And people say, 'I haven't gotten the flu in five or 10 years.' I know, and you're likely not going to get it. But if you don't get the flu shot, and you do get the flu, it's much more likely you're going to get really sick," Slovis said.

A Dorchester County man, 39, recently died due to complications he suffered from having the flu and pneumonia.

According to Registered Nurse, Pam Hinrichs, with Doctors Care in Carolina Forest, pneumonia is the most common complication from the flu.

"People don't think pneumonia as being fatal, but its still the sixth most leading cause of death in the United States and world. So we want to prevent it, and so your more likely to get a lot sicker with pneumonia," explained Hinrichs.

Hinrichs also adds the number of people coming in with the flu are starting to die down, but that doesn't mean people aren't dealing with complications, "we are seeing a lot of sore throats, bronical coughs, things like that. The actual flu this year was presenting itself as a high fever severe cough and sore throat. So we are seeing those symptoms, but lots of times it's not related to the flu which is good in a sense."

Many regional hospitals are reporting a decrease in the number of flu cases. For example leaders at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center and Conway Medical Center said they did see a spike in their flu numbers back in December, but since then it's been tapering off.

Most of the medical professionals who spoke to WMBF News concerning this story want to encourage folks to still get the flu vaccine if they haven't done so already.

Dr. Slovis warns what to look for when the flu turns serious.

"If you're having trouble thinking. If you're having trouble eating. If your fever is so high it's uncontrollable. Those are the people that need to come to the hospital. And the people who've been hospitalized, not only have they been very weak, they've also been having shortness of breath. They're having respiratory symptoms that are far out of the ordinary," Slovis said.

The flu season usually lasts until March, but has been known to extend into the month of May.

If you want to find a location to get the flu vaccine, here are some locations:

Beach Urgent Care: 9672 N Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach, SC 29572

Walgreens: 1601 Church Street, Conway, SC 29526

Walgreens: 2872 Highway 17 S., Garden City 29576

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved. WSMV contributed to this report.