CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Doctors in South Carolina are urging patients to get the flu vaccination for the coming year.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Tuesday there have been four deaths from the flu already this season.
Those deaths were part of 79 confirmed cases over one week ago.
In the Lowcountry, there have been 19 confirmed cases in three counties (Charleston-10, Dorchester-2, Beaufort-7), a little over a week ago (October 4-10).
Dr. Bo Machado, M.D. FACEP, medical director with Health First, says this year's vaccine is stronger, and a closer match to the virus then in years past.
"Now is the time to get it," Dr. Machado said. "There is no benefit in waiting, and there are lots of risk."
Dr. Machado says he's not surprised there have been four deaths already from the flu.
He thought those numbers would come earlier.
"Every year we have deaths in October," Dr. Machado said. "I actually thought it was going to be a week or two ago. I think it's going to get bad pretty quick between now and Christmas."
The deaths meanwhile, have caught some off guard.
"It's kind of shocking, and it makes me want to go get a flu shot," said Franca, of Mt. Pleasant. "I think everyone should go get a flu shot," said another resident. "My dad was very persistent about us getting our flu shots. He said it was going to be really bad this year."
"South Carolina rarely has flu deaths in people who have gotten the vaccine," Dr. Machado said. "We have plenty of flu deaths in people who didn't get the vaccine. There really isn't any advantage to wait."
Dr. Machado added supplies in the Charleston area tend to run out by January.
He says it's critical to get the vaccine ahead of the peak in the season, which is February.
"We're going to have five deaths, sometime around ten days before or after Valentine's, if it's a typical year," Dr. Machado said.
As for who is most likely to get the flu, he said it's usually healthy men and women in their 40s.
Of the four deaths, one person was between 18 and 49 years old, another between 50 and 64, and two others over the age of 65.
Doctors say the vaccine does not completely prevent the case of the flu, but it does lower the risks by a large percentage.