Flu deaths up in South Carolina

This week's cold weather is a reminder it's the time of year when flu season nears its peak.

The latest figures from the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control show last week was a bad one in the state for people suffering the worst effects of the flu.

Eleven people died from the illness in the state, the most for any one week since the season started last September.

Statewide, 1,209 people have been hospitalized with the flu this season.

Many of those flu sufferers may have started out thinking they had a cold since the symptoms are nearly the same, but there are differences.

"You would see an increase in fever, chills, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, headaches, things like that. They'd be a little bit more severe in a case of the flu than it would be a common cold," said registered nurse Kate Richards of the Little River Medical Center.

Richards says timing is critical.

If you think what you have could be the flu, she says you should get to a doctor quickly or your options are limited.

"Within 24 to 48 hours, in order to get Tamiflu, which is a treatment for the flu, you would need to be seen within that time frame. After that time frame, there's really not anything that prescription-wise that it can be treated with.

If you have the flu and it's too late to be treated with Tamiflu, Richards says you should get plenty of rest, take fever reducers like Tylenol and use over-the-counter medications to relieve cough and other symptoms.

But before you feel any flu symptoms at all, Richards says you should keep in mind that it's never too late to get a flu shot.

"Your first defense is the flu vaccine, get that flu vaccine."

The Centers for Disease Control says the flu is now widespread in 41 states, with most of those hospitalized being age 65 or older.