‘The number of hospitalized and critically ill patients we’ve seen in such a short period of time is unprecedented’

November 01, 2022
Closeup of two people's hands clasped. One is lying in a hospital bed. One is sitting beside the first.
Older adults are among the people at higher risk of getting seriously ill from respiratory viruses. iStock

Allison Eckard, M.D., division chief for Pediatric Infectious Diseases at MUSC Children’s Health, said a worrying number of people are coming down with respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV, along with the flu and other viruses. She sees it firsthand in her young patients. “The number of hospitalized and critically ill patients we’ve seen in such a short period of time is unprecedented.”

That’s why MUSC Health is teaming up with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and other health systems to encourage people of all ages to take steps to reduce their risk.

In a SCDHEC news release, state epidemiologist Linda Bell, M.D., said one key way to do that is for everyone who’s eligible to get a flu shot. “That is especially important for older residents, people with chronic health conditions and very young children.” 

Her agency also noted that COVID is still around. Some experts say it could surge again this winter. As Michael Sweat, Ph.D., leader of the Medical University of South Carolina’s COVID-19 tracking team recently put it: “There's always uncertainty, but every time I think it's over, we get another wave.”

So SCDHEC continues to recommend COVID vaccines and boosters.

When it comes to other precautions that can help in the fight against the respiratory viruses that are causing problems right now, SCDHEC recommends the following steps:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze.
  • Wear a mask if you’re at higher risk because you’re immunocompromised or have another health risk.
  • Stay home and away from others when you’re sick.

And keep in mind that others may be at a higher risk for getting really sick than you realize. Eckard said in her area, pediatrics, the most vulnerable patients are babies, young children and kids with underlying medical conditions, especially those that affect the immune system and/or lungs.

SCDHEC said others at higher risk include older adults, people who are pregnant and those with chronic health conditions.

Thornton Kirby, president and CEO of the South Carolina Hospital Association, said hospitals and health systems have been on the front lines of the pandemic, encouraging hand-washing and vaccination. “Now we are asking individuals to utilize those same measures to stem the tide of flu, RSV and potential COVID cases impacting our health care providers.”

Other health care systems involved in the state’s efforts to help people lower their risk – and  stay out of the hospital – include Lexington Medical Center, McLeod Health and Prisma Health.

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