Ten deaths from influenza have been reported in South Carolina as the number of hospitalizations and fatalities climbs well above last yearís mild season.

Statewide, a total of 519 people with laboratory-confirmed influenza were admitted to the hospital from Sept. 30 through Dec. 15, according to the latest figures available from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

In comparison, last yearís flu season began late and resulted in one death and 114 people hospitalized with lab-confirmed flu from Oct. 2, 2011, to July 7, 2012, according to DHEC.

So far, widespread flu has been reported in 29 states, including South Carolina, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Christmas Eve, 68 patients tested positive for the flu at Nason Medical Centers. This month, the centers treated 832 people for influenza, said Dr. Barron Nason.

ďThatís extremely high. Itís hitting early and itís hitting hard,Ē he said.

Nason has clinics in North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Summerville and on James Island. He said the emergency and urgent care centers have admitted two elderly patients to a hospital because of complications from the flu.

Flu vaccination protects against the illness, but it needs two weeks to become fully effective. The injection does not give people the flu as some worry, he said.

Except for children under 6 months old, everyone who is healthy should get a flu vaccination. An estimated 60 percent of Americans have not gotten the shot this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Read more in upcoming editions of The Post and Courier.