The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) is reminding residents to protect themselves against the flu as cases of the disease increase in the Lowcountry.

For 13 straight weeks, SCDHEC has reported “widespread activity,” according to the most recent Flu Watch report. In South Carolina, there have been 1,931 flu-related hospitalizations and 68 deaths from the illness in the current flu season, as of Feb. 12.

“We are seeing widespread transmission of flu in South Carolina and the U.S.,” Dr. Michael Kacka, DHEC physician and medical consultant, said in a public statement. “The risk for exposure to the flu for the general population is high.”

Concern over the flu has been heightened by the spread of novel coronavirus, from China to other nations, including the U.S. Symptoms of the coronavirus are the same as the flu, according to Kacka.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the World Health Organization’s description of coronavirus, in S.C. “The risk of complications and deaths from the flu are a far greater public health threat than COVID-19 in the U.S. at this time,” Kacka said.

Residents are encouraged to get vaccinated for the flu, wash their hands often, and stay home if they believe they are sick. “This protects individuals and the public and reduces confusion of more common respiratory illnesses with the possible COVID-19 infections.”

Coronavirus has infected 46,997 people globally, killing 1,369. According to the Center for Disease Control, there have been 15 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S., with 81 cases pending at this time. 

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