COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina’s lead health agency on Wednesday announced the state’s first flu-related death of the 2021 season.

“Sadly, an individual from the Upstate region has died from complications due to the flu, our first confirmed influenza-associated death of the season,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist and DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control. “As we continue to respond to the worst public health crisis in 100 years, it’s important that we all remain as healthy as possible. One key step we can take is getting our flu shots.”

Officials with the Department of Health and Environmental Contrail said there have been 79 lab-confirmed cases of the flu in South Carolina so far this flu season.

They say contracting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time is possible and may cause more complications than if someone had just one of the infections. That is why they are encouraging everyone 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated against the flu virus.

“Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions in history for reducing disease spread and preventing complications and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases,” Dr. Bell said. “So many generations before us would have given anything to have a flu vaccine. With COVID-19’s prevalence across our state, we must use the vaccines that medical science has afforded us to help prevent illness like the flu.” 

She went on to say, “Another reason why it’s important to get your flu shot this year is we don’t want to overwhelm our hospitals, ICUs, and ventilators with both flu and COVID-19 patients.”

According to DHEC, it takes about two weeks for the body’s immune system to respond for full protection.