The flu virus that has been doing its rounds in other states has now peaked in South Carolina. Early January saw the first lab-confirmed flu case this year.
The scene has changed rapidly since then and now the outbreak has been officially upgraded to 'widespread' this week, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
As always, college campuses where students live in close quarters and have healthcare available, have reported the maximum cases of the flu outbreak. University of South Carolina and Clemson University health officials reported treating higher-than-normal rates of flu and flu- like illnesses.
Clemson's Redfern Health Center has treated more than 300 cases of flu since January.
About 300 students are reporting to the USC's Thomson Student Health Center daily, with about 30 percent testing positive for flu. This is about twice the number of cases reported last year from January through March, USC spokesman Russ McKinney said.
"Getting a flu vaccine is the only way to keep the flu away", said Department of Health and Environmental Control spokeswoman, Clair Boatwright. "There is enough of flu vaccine available, if you have not got the flu yet", she added.
Instances of some college students getting the flu despite being vaccinated have been reported. This is possible, according to Boatwright, because the flu virus has the potential to mutate as it moved across the continents. Or it could be that the vaccine might not have taken effect in the students because they were vaccinated just before or after they contracted the virus.
Those with flu symptoms including high fever, severe headaches, body aches joint pains, vomiting diarrhea, stomach cramps and chills can visit the doctor within 48 hours to receive anti-viral drugs. Health experts say gastrointestinal symptoms are more common in children.
Some pharmacies are running out of Tamiflu, the prescription drug that lessens symptoms and helps fend off the disease.
"We're seeing a mom come in with three or four prescriptions," said John Floyd, pharmacy manager at the CVS on Sunset Boulevard. "They'll have one for the child that's sick, and two or three for the others in the family to keep them from getting (the flu)."
Influenza is contagious. Practising good hygiene such as washing hands and observing the 'cough etiquette' helps to check the spread of the flu virus, say experts.