A legislative panel says it was pleased with what they heard from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control in a report last week on the state’s swine flu response. In a report and testimony to a House subcommittee, DHEC Commissioner Earl Hunter says quick response, widespread public information and voluntary containment has kept the case rate and severity down in South Carolina.
He says DHEC is however, preparing for a second wave and he thanked the lawmakers for giving them more power to take drastic measures if needed.
“That’s the kind of tough choices we’ll have to make if we have another wave in the Fall and it proves to be very virulent,very pathogenic.” says Hunter. “What we saw coming out of Mexico, we were seeing 400 cases and 60-70 deaths were being reported right away, so it was very much mimicking what we were seeing with some of the terrible pandemics in the past. I think we reacted in the right manner. Luckily, it’s turned out to kind of miss the mark so far and we gotta hope that it continues.”
State epidemiologist Dr. Jerry Gibson says we are now in period of what he calls “the new normal. ” Gibson says that means watching and monitoring closely for the continuation of this or of regular seasonal flu.”
And the “new normal” for DHEC, includes remaining wary of this new flu strain as the history of such outbreaks shows a second wave can happen in colder months.
Gibson is clear to caution that in three of the past four similar pandemics, “It was this early wave in the Spring or the Summer, then a severe one in the Fall and Winter when it got to be cold and dry and the right conditions for this virus to spread,” says Gibson. “And it’s thought, especially in 1890 and 1918, that the virus had evolved and was more pathogenic; it caused more severe illness that second time too.”
Gibson says that we do have an advantage over the other severe flu pandemics.
“I do think that, with modern medical care,” says Gibson,”with the existence of anti-viral drugs that work and a vaccine –when it takes five or six months to be ready–that even a much more pathogenic virus wouldn’t be as destructive as 1918.”
As of May 19, there were 37 confirmed cases of swine flu statewide.