South Carolina health officials have reported the first flu-related deaths of the 2015-2016 season.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said Tuesday that four individuals have died as a result of the flu.
“Tragically, individuals from the Upstate, Pee Dee and Lowcountry regions have become our first lab-confirmed, influenza-associated deaths of the season,” State epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said in a statement. The agency reported 79 total confirmed cases spanning across 15 counties.
Bell said it is the beginning stages of what could a long flu season and urged the public get vaccinated now before the outbreak likely peaks early next year. “The vaccine takes about two weeks to build up your body’s protection against the virus, and vaccination is by far the best way to prevent the spread of the flu,” she said.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The flu can cause mild to severe illness and can be deadly, especially to vulnerable people, including the very young, the elderly and those with certain chronic health conditions. Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, and nasal congestion or stuffiness.