The flu has arrived in South Carolina, and area hospitals are making a final push to reach those who have delayed getting a shot.
A positive lab test in Lexington County this week that found a 5-year-old child had Influenza B prompted state health officials to declare the flu's arrival.
The number of flu cases statewide remains low based on the number of patients reporting flu-like symptoms and the number of positive results in the less conclusive rapid tests, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Last year, like most years, the number of flu cases in South Carolina peaked in January and February.
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Health officials are using the news of the Lexington County case to remind those who haven't received the vaccine that it's not too late.
Hilton Head Hospital will provide seasonal flu shots from 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday in the main lobby. Coastal Carolina Hospital's rural health clinic, 1010 Medical Center Drive in Hardeeville, also provides flu shots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and accepts walk-ins.
"We've got a limited number of flu shots for one last push," Hilton Head Hospital spokeswoman Kelly Presnell said.
Presnell said the hospital is expected to exhaust its supply of the flu vaccine for community clinics and businesses soon after Thursday. The hospital ordered about 1,000 doses, which have been given out since late September, but has plenty to meet the needs for those admitted to the hospital who have not received a shot.
"Our supply for these is good. We're in no shortage of that at all," Presnell said. "There's also more availability in the community for people to get a flu shot."
Vaccinations are available at county health clinics and many physicians' offices and pharmacies. Medicare, Medicaid and some insurers cover the cost. DHEC clinics charge $25, which Medicare and Medicaid will cover for those who provide proof of eligibility. However, the shot will be provided regardless of ability to pay, according to a DHEC news release.
"All we're asking is people call ahead before they come," said Nick Davidson, public health preparedness director for DHEC's Region 8, which spans Beaufort, Hampton, Colleton and Jasper counties.
Flu shots also are provided to eligible children and adolescents through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine for Children program at many doctors' offices, community health centers and DHEC's county public health departments.
"The confirmation of flu in our state reinforces the need for vaccination against the dangerous illness," said Dr. Jerry Gibson, director of DHEC's Bureau of Disease Control. "The vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older. It remains the single best way to prevent the flu."
Other suggested flu-fighting techniques include washing hands frequently and thoroughly, covering one's mouth when coughing and staying home when sick, Presnell said.
The (Columbia) State newspaper contributed to this report.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.