Three more South Carolinians have died from the flu this season, according to a report Friday by the state health department.

The most recent flu deaths were reported in Beaufort, Horry and Orangeburg counties, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed.

The Lowcountry still leads the state for flu-related deaths. Three Charleston County residents and one resident from both Berkeley and Dorchester counties have died from the disease since Sept. 29.

One flu death has also been reported this season in Richland County, bringing the statewide total to nine deaths.

Cases of the flu are still below last season's levels. Fewer than 4,000 positive rapid antigen tests were reported to the health department during the most recent reporting week, compared with roughly 4,500 positive tests during the same week one year ago.

Nearly 800 people have been hospitalized with influenza in South Carolina since the beginning of the flu season.

Health experts say hand washing with soap and warm water is a good preventative measure, and so is getting a flu vaccine shot.

"The flu most often peaks in January and February, so this is a prime time to be aware and take caution," said Wanda Brockmeyer, director of emergency services at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. "Each flu season is different - some can last as late as spring, so if you haven't already done so, get your flu shot."

Last season, 46 residents in this state died from the flu.