Although flu season doesn't typically peak in South Carolina until February, state and local health experts say now is the time to get vaccinated.
"Simply put ... the flu is already around," said Jim Beasley, a spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, which tracks flu cases across the state.
"We are very early on -- we are just now starting the fall -- and we are already getting reports from physicians," he said. Twenty-two cases were reported from Sept. 16 through Sept. 22 compared to 11 during the previous seven-day period, he said.
Dr. Stephen Luther of Hilton Head Primary Care said the flu season usually runs from October through May in South Carolina. However, because it generally takes the body at least two weeks to develop sufficient antibodies after a flu shot or nasal spray is given, now is the time to head to a clinic.
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It is too soon to know whether the 2012-13 flu strain will be mild or virulent, Luther said, noting that flu activity in the Hilton Head Island area can be affected by tourists, who can bring the virus into the area.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine this year. It protects against many types of flu including H1N1 "swine flu" and H3N2.
Vaccinations are especially important for pregnant women, people with medical conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease and diabetes, and those 65 and older, according to the CDC's website.