Flu patients playing role in record numbers at Piedmont ER

dworthington@heraldonline.comJanuary 3, 2013 

  • Flu prevention tips • Stay away from people who are sick • Stay home if you are sick • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue if possible and immediately throw it away. Otherwise, cough into your upper sleeve. • Wash hands often and thoroughly • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth • Get vaccinated against the flu. To find out where you can get the vaccine go to: http://flushot.healthmap.org/ State flu statistics

    As of Jan. 2.

    • Flu season started Sept. 30, 2012.

    Number of tests and positive results for flu: 32,821 tests, 3,206 cases

    Number of people hospitalized: 862

    Number of deaths: 15.

    Source: S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

— Piedmont Medical Center is seeing record number of patients at its emergency room, in part because of an early flu season.

From November to December, Piedmont administered 1,450 flu tests, of which 350 were positive. The numbers are consistent with other flu seasons, Piedmont officials said.

Most of the sick were sent home to rest, take acetaminophen and drink water. If the flu was caught in the first 48 hours, Tamiflu was often prescribed. Fewer than 1 percent of those tested were hospitalized, Piedmont officials said.

Piedmont Medical Center officials said flu may have been a factor in the death of one patient.

South Carolina is one of 31 states where the flu is widespread, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Since Sept. 30 there have been 15 deaths in the state attributed to the flu, one a child in Barnwell County. There was only one death in South Carolina during the 2011-2012 flu season, which state officials characterized as “late and mild.”

York County physician offices also reported seeing flu patients daily.

Dr. Sandeep Grewal said this year’s flu season seems to be more intense. “It takes about a week to get over, but it does get better,” he said.

Before the winter break some elementary school classes in Rock Hill had absenteeism higher than normal because of illness, schools spokeswoman Elaine Baker said.

Rock Hill students returned to classes Thursday. The flu does not appear to be affecting attendance, Baker said, but the system does continue to have problems with parents sending children to school with fevers.

Kelly McKinney, spokeswoman for Fort Mill schools, said the flu has not affected attendance. Fort Mill students were back from the winter break on Wednesday.

Almost all of the cases at Piedmont Medical Center are the H3N2 or Type A flu variety.

This year’s flu vaccine is for H3N2 A and B, as well as H1N1.

“Flu vaccines won’t prevent the flu, but they will lessen the severity of the symptoms,” said Timothy Rumsey, a physician assistant at Piedmont’s emergency department. “It’s not immunity.”

Jamillah Hasan-Jones, clinical quality improvement care director at Piedmont, said people with flu symptoms should consider using urgent care centers as a option for flu treatment. These centers can be effective in getting rapid treatment and there is “less exposure to the sicker people in the ER,” she said.

Hasan-Jones said the decision whether to go the emergency room depends on the person. People with asthma or diabetes are more susceptible to complications from the flu.

Piedmont Medical Center has not restricted visitors. It is asking people to wash their hands and wear masks and gowns when visiting higher-risk patients.

Local and state officials expect another spike in flu cases in late January or early February based on historic data.

Don Worthington 803-329-4066

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