"Anyone can get the flu even if they are healthy," said Dr. Teresa Foo, an S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control immunization medical consultant.
That's why DHEC in a recent news release has urged South Carolinians to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu by being vaccinated.
According to the latest report from DHEC, nine influenza-related hospitalizations were reported from Oct. 8-14. During the same period, 108 influenza cases were reported in the state. In the current flu season, which began Oct. 1, more than 200 flu cases have been reported.
Flu activity is still considered low, however, with peak season still several weeks away based on past observations.
With the flu season only a few weeks old, there is still time for a vaccination against the viral disease, according to the release.
Vaccination to prevent flu is particularly important for people who are at increased risk of complications from flu, including young children, adults aged 50 years and older, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, according to the release.
Even those who were vaccinated last year should do so again this year because protection provided by last season's vaccine decreases over time, according to DHEC; in addition, the flu vaccine is reformulated each year to keep up with changing flu viruses.
"The flu vaccine is still the best way to prevent serious illness this fall and winter," Foo said. "You should get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in the community."
Foo said it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu.
"South Carolinians should act now to protect themselves and their families," she said.
Flu vaccine is available from many local providers, including doctors' offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools and workplaces, Foo said.
DHEC county public health departments are also offering flu vaccine.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms may include a sudden onset of fever, cough, headache or muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat and nasal congestion or stuffiness, according to the release. The flu is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death.
Flu vaccines offered at DHEC Health Department clinics will be available by appointment, according to the release.
For more information or to make an appointment, call (800) 868-0404, or visit www.scdhec.gov/Flu/FluClinics.