At least one state health official says that the world is undoubtedly on the edge of an influenza pandemic, judging from the growth of swine flu infections.Dr. Robert Ball is a D.H.E.C. Epidemiologist and Co-chairs the South Carolina Pandemic Influenza Ethics Task Force. He says a pandemic could happen in a matter of days, and if it occurs, it will be hard on the population as well as the state’s health care system.
“There will likely be many, many cases, and even some deaths, in South Carolina. These will severely stretch our healthcare resources, requiring rationing of care, which will be unlike what we expect under normal circumstances,” says Ball.
While the regular seasonal flu has resulted in the death of around 250 people in South Carolina annually in recent years, a pandemic could kill thousands in one year.
Ball says if a pandemic occurs, hospitals won’t be able to help all those who need help. “Since most hospitals are already at maximum capacity, given one or two beds, the overflow of hundreds of patients requiring hospitalization would overtax our hospitals, requiring alternate care sites, and other measures and society has never seen before.”
At the same time, another D.H.E.C. Epidemiologist Jerry Gibson points out that a pandemic does not exist yet, and may not come about. But Gibson isnow referring to South Carolina’s outbreak of swine flu as an epidemic. The Department of Health and Environmental Control says there are 13 confirmed cases of swine flu in the state, all located in Newberry. At the same time, DHEC says six more cases are “probable” but haven’t been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control. All of the cases are connected to a trip that Newberry Academy students and chaperons took to Mexico. One of those cases is located in the Charleston area.