South Carolina’s first flu death of the season reported in the Midlands, officials say

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Although flu season has not officially started, on Wednesday the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said that the Palmetto State’s first flu-associated death of the season happened in the Midlands.

“Unfortunately, a person from the Midlands region has died from complications due to the flu, becoming our first confirmed influenza-associated death just before the official start of the season on Oct. 1,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist and DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control. “Although we are just entering the flu season, this is a sober reminder to us all that the flu is already here and that it can be deadly. Sadly, we see many deaths, hospitalizations and other serious complications of flu each year in our state.”

Information about the victim’s age was not available.

Last season, DHEC reported 161 flu-related deaths in South Carolina, and 59,031 confirmed cases of the virus.

The best way to stay healthy? Bell said those who get the flu shot, as early as possible, have the best chance of avoiding the virus. Getting the shot sooner is ideal because DHEC says it takes about two weeks for the body’s immune system to respond for full protection.

DHEC and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated.

Preventing the flu is particularly important for people who are at increased risk of complications from the virus, including young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older, and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart or lung disease, according to DHEC.

However, healthy people also can have serious complications from the flu, health officials said.

In addition to the flu shot, DHEC said other preventive methods that protect against the flu and other respiratory viruses include wearing masks, frequent hand washing, and staying home or away from others while sick.

The flu vaccine will be available from many providers, including DHEC health departments (by Oct. 1), doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools and workplaces.

Flu vaccines offered at DHEC health department clinics are available by calling 855-472-3432 to make an appointment or go to to find the nearest location. More information about preventing the flu is available at

“We can’t predict what this season will bring, but we are preparing for significant activity not only from the flu, but respiratory illnesses in general, to include COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC’s director of Public Health. “Just like with the flu, being vaccinated is the best protection against severe illness from COVID-19 or RSV. People should talk with their health care provider to evaluate the risks and benefits of vaccination for them.”

As these respiratory illnesses circulate in communities, it is possible to get sick with one or more of them, health officials said.

It is safe to receive the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time, DHEC said.