COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina’s lead health agency reported Monday the state’s first pediatric flu-related death of the season.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said a child from the Midlands area died recently from complications of the flu.

Dr. Bell said that while the flu can circulate at any time of the year, the season officially begins, for surveillance purposes, on October 1st.

“Although we are early in the season, we have been seeing widespread flu activity since the first week. This suggests we could have a severe flu season, and we all must take actions to protect ourselves and others,” Dr. Bell said.

Health officials say people 65 and over, young children, and those with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of complications from the flu. “But complications can unpredictably occur even among young and previously healthy people,” continued Dr. Bell.

DHEC and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older who is eligible get vaccinated against the flu.

Health officials said it takes about two weeks for the body to build up protection after getting the flu vaccine. “So it’s important to get vaccinated soon to prevent more illnesses since flu has already spread widely in South Carolina and other states,” the health agency said.