CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Flu hospitalizations more than doubled in South Carolina during a two-week stretch in December, according to a recent report from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The report compared flu cases during the weeks of Dec. 10-17 and Dec. 17-23.
Doctors in Charleston County have noticed the spike in flu cases as well.
"One of our nurse practitioners saw nine flu cases in one 12-hour shift last week," Assistant Facility Medical Director for Trident Emergency Department Dr. Kenneth Perry said.
Perry said this year's flu season has felt busier than those he remembers in years past.
"The southeast seems to be seeing a lot more cases that other places in the country, so certainly here in the Lowcountry, we're certainly feeling the effects," Perry said.
DHEC reports say so far this season, there have been 389 flu hospitalizations in South Carolina. Compare that to last year's total number of flu hospitalizations, which was almost 2,500.
But Dr. Katy Richardson, who works for DHEC, isn't so much shocked by the number of hospitalizations as much as she is by how early the flu has become widespread.
"There are more this time of year," Richardson said. "So it has begun about a month earlier."
Perry says the effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine may be to blame for that spike in flu cases.
"It seems that the predominant flu that's out isn't the one that's necessarily hit by the vaccine," Perry said.
That's based on the rate of success seen in Australia. DHEC's Katy Richardson says they usually can predict the effectiveness of the vaccine here based on their results.
The current vaccine has only been about 10 percent effective in Australia.
"But that can change, there are other strains of flu, and the vaccine is more effective against those," Richardson said.
Doctors still recommend getting the vaccine, especially because flu season is still far from over.
Click here for tips from Trident Medical Center to help you stay healthy during flu season.