Demand up for the flu shot as the virus spreads

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WPDE) - It's still January but many of you may be anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring, but not just for the warmer weather. It'll likely mean the end of flu season.

Across the country many people have fallen ill and even died from complications from the virus. According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, 22 people in South Carolina have died from the flu.

Since flu season isn't over health officials say the flu shot is your best bet in keeping the virus at bay.

"It's an important step in trying to stay healthy and not get the flu," explained Chris Maggi, a Nurse Practitioner at CPG Family Medicine and Urgent Care.

Maggi said since the severity of this years' flu season made national headlines, more and more people are being proactive and coming in to get their flu shot. But some are still getting sick. Just this week they've diagnosed seven people with the flu.

"Earlier in the season they were waiting until they were sick for three, four days. They didn't want to come and said 'oh it's just a cold.' Now I'm finding people come in 'I got sick two days ago and I feel miserable and I think I have the flu.' People are starting to recognize that you know what, it's flu season, I'm not feeling well. I need to go get tested," she added.

Here's a breakdown of the numbers by county of confirmed flu cases according to DHEC from December 30, 2012 to January 5, 2013: Marion, 49; Marlboro, 14; Florence, 166; Georgetown, 159; Horry, 211; Williamsburg, 4; Darlington, 77.

Since commonly prescribed Tamiflu works best within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, Maggi said it's important to come in early.

"Flu symptoms typically come on quickly. They come on with a fever, chills, body aches, extreme fatigue. There may be some nasal congestion, stuffy nose, sore throat," she explained. "The big thing is the body aches, the fatigue just overall feeling really badly. If you start to feel really badly fairly quickly don't wait and go get checked."

While they have plenty of the vaccine at CPG, you may want to call ahead if you go to a drugstore. In an email, Walgreens representative Vivika Panagiotakakos, said "due to increased demand for flu shots in recent weeks, select locations in your area may currently be experiencing shortages in supply of flu vaccine."

Not convinced you need a flu shot? Health experts suggest you wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and try to avoid close contact with sick people.