A big spike in flu cases has health officials warning people to get the vaccine available for the illness that has claimed the life of a Barnwell County child.

Since Sept. 30, there have been 1,976 confirmed flu cases in South Carolina. Of those, 1,232 cases were reported in the week ending Nov. 24, the latest available figures from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

In addition, 38 people have been hospitalized for symptoms related to flu, according to DHEC.

“Flu activity typically peaks in February, and it is very unuusal for us to see this number of cases so early in the season,” said Dr. Linda Bell, interim state epidemiologist.

“Our latest statewide activity report indicates that influenza has quickly reached widespread levels,” she said.

Local emergency room physicians said they have seen a sharp rise in flu cases.

“It has come on with a furor,” said Dr. Ed Rodelsperger of Roper St. Francis Healthcare.

He saw five confirmed cases of flu at Roper Northwoods on Saturday night.

Rodelsperger said he is seeing a lot of young people with the illness. The anti-viral medicine Tamiflu in the pediatric dosage has been had to find, he said.

“That’s concerning,” he said.

He began to see more patients with the flu after Thanksgiving.

“This is significantly early. That tends to mean it could be a much more virulent season,” he said.