flu shot vial.jpg (copy)

The flu vaccine wasn't a perfect match for the predominant virus circulating last season, but it may lessen the severity of flu symptoms, doctors said. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

South Carolina has seen its first flu-related death of the season, according to the state health department. The patient was from the Lowcountry. 

The Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Thursday the resident died from complications associated with the influenza virus. No other information about the person was provided. Federal and state privacy laws prohibit the state agency from releasing any identifying information. Typically, DHEC only reports the region of the state where patients die. 

"Unfortunately, we see many deaths, hospitalizations and other serious complications of flu each year in South Carolina," Dr. Lilian Peake, DHEC director of public health, said in a press release. 

Flu activity is unpredictable since the strain of the flu virus that circulates can change every year. 

"Therefore, we strongly encourage people to get vaccinated now to prevent the flu and its potentially serious consequences," Peake said. 

The vaccination takes about two weeks from the date of the shot to become fully effective. 

In addition to getting vaccinated, DHEC advises South Carolina residents to wash their hands with soap frequently, cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and to limit contact with other individuals if they are sick.  

According to DHEC, vulnerable groups who are more susceptible to complications from the flu virus include pregnant women, young children, people 65 years old and older and individuals with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease. 

Last year, during a particularly severe flu season, nearly 4,500 people in South Carolina were hospitalized with the virus and 289 patients died from it.