COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - Nine deaths in just one week.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control says that's how many people died from the flu in South Carolina between January 7 and January 13.
In all, 24 people have died of flu-related complications in the state since flu season started in October.
According to DHEC, 1,300 people have been hospitalized with the flu since the beginning of the season.
"All it takes is for someone to cough," said Dr. Julie Ann Justo of the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe this flu season as an "epidemic" with widespread activity across the continental U.S. all at the same time.
Dr. Justo says the very young and the older population are most at risk for the flu. People below the age of five and people 65 and older fall into those categories.
DHEC said most of the victims were at least 65 years old. No children have died from the flu this season.
On average, Justo says the flu vaccine has a roughly 40 percent effectiveness rate, but adds that shouldn't stop someone from getting vaccinated, even this late in the season.
"That doesn't sound like a lot, but that's still better than zero percent protection," said Justo. "We can't necessarily guess which type of flu someone might be exposed to, but if it happens to be one of the ones that are contained in the current flu vaccine, it might prevent you from getting the flu or if you do contract it, it'll be a milder form of the disease."
In addition to getting a flu vaccine, health officials also recommend other basic actions to protect yourself:
- Stay away from sick people
- Cover up coughs and sneezes
- Wash your hands frequently
Many hospitals have restricted visitors because of the flu.
You can click here to find out if DHEC has a flu vaccine clinic near you.