[image-1]New numbers released this week by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control show why you should really, really consider getting that flu shot.

According to a Flu Watch report updated on Wednesday, 40,940 people have caught a case of the severe sniffles in South Carolina this season. The week of Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 saw a 34 percent increase in infections.

Ten people have died in the Lowcountry because of complications arising from the flu, representing a significant portion of the 46 total deaths in the state this flu season. Last week alone brought 17 new flu deaths and 470 flu-related hospitalizations.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness spread mainly through tiny droplets when people talk, cough, or sneeze, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and anyone with a chronic illness are most vulnerable to the virus that causes it.

DHEC began offering flu vaccines at its health departments in October.

[image-2] If you are 19 or older and uninsured, you may be eligible for DHEC’s adult vaccine program. If you’re lucky enough to have insurance, DHEC can bill them for the cost of your vaccine. Flu shots are also covered by the state ACA provider BlueCross BlueShield, and by Medicaid and Medicare Part B.

You can get a shot on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at the North Area Health Department at 3963 Whipper Barony Lane in North Charleston between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. You can also get one on Wednesdays at 1189 Sweetgrass Basket Parkway in Mount Pleasant between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m..

Appointments for both locations can be made toll-free at (800) 868-0404.