A new report on infectious disease prevention found South Carolina in the upper half among states for handling and preventing virus outbreaks.
But the report by the nonprofit health promotion group Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) did say there were many areas where the state could improve.
The report did not rank states individually, but instead scored each by how they performed in 10 key indicators. South Carolina met 6 of those indicators, putting it slightly above average. The Palmetto State scored high in increasing public funding, preparations for public health emergencies, more than 90 percent of infants receiving the hepatitis B vaccination, and for reducing central line-associated blood stream infections among hospital patients.
But Trust for America’s Health spokesman Albert Lang said South Carolina still needs to improve in some areas, such as lowering what is still a relatively high rate of hospital-acquired infections. “South Carolina showed improvement, but they’re still below the national average of incident rates,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “While it’s great they’re improving, they still have a ways to go.” He said 1 out of every 25 people on average contract an infection during their stay in a hospital.
Lang said South Carolina also lags behind the national average in vaccinations among its adults, especially for the flu. The report noted more than a third of seniors nationwide and a majority of adults have not gotten all of the recommended shots. In South Carolina, the flu vaccination rate is 44 percent.
“A state education campaign could be really helpful in making sure that people are aware that the flu vaccine is completely safe and protects the most vulnerable in our population,” Lang said. “(Those are) the young people who haven’t built up an immunity and the old people who have compromised immune systems.”
The report’s authors warned that many states are still unprepared for a massive outbreak. For instance, TFAH executive director Jeffrey Levi noted that hospitals nationwide appeared unprepared to handle Ebola cases that appeared on American shores for the first time in 2014. “Over the last decade, we have seen dramatic improvements in state and local capacity to respond to outbreaks and emergencies. But we also saw during the recent Ebola outbreak that some of the most basic infectious disease control policies failed when tested,” he said in a statement. “The Ebola outbreak is a reminder that we cannot afford to let our guard down. We must remain vigilant in preventing and controlling emerging threats – like MERS-CoV, pandemic flu and Enterovirus – but not at the expense of ongoing, highly disruptive and dangerous diseases – seasonal flu, HIV/AIDS, antibiotic resistance and healthcare-associated infections.”
South Carolina only met 5 of 10 indicators in TFAH’s 2013 report, but the organization also used different criteria last year.