By Nikki Gaskinsngaskins@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV)Lowcountry doctors say this flu season has hit the state early and with a vengeance. So far, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control report 15 deaths from the illness.
Just this past weekend, the Charleston County coroner says a 73-year-old woman from James Island died from the flu.
Charleston County has experienced a large case of the virus. According to SCHEC, from December 23 to 29, 767 positive rapid flu tests were reported. Richland County came in second with 328 and Greenville County came in third with 233.
The virus has kept Lowcountry doctors busy.
"The flu has been significantly worse than preceding years," says Dr. Barron Nasion of Nason Medical Center. He says 10 percent of his patients coming to his clinics have the flu.
"We're seeing over 700 patients a day and 60 to 70 of those patients will be positive for influenza. We had over 400 cases of influenza within the past week," said Nason.
At MUSC, it's the same story.
"We've no idea where it's going to go from here but certainly we're nervous and seeing a lot of it," said MUSC's Dr. Keith Borg.
DHEC officials report 862 people from around the state have been hospitalized with the flu since September 30.
"Flu shifts around every year and changes its resistance based on the population, based on where it goes," said Borg.
"We've found that the virus is more virulent and has probably mutated just enough so that it is causing patients who have been vaccinated to have influenza as well," said Nason.
To prevent the spread of the virus doctors encourage good old "common sense."
"Cover your mouth, if you're coughing. Wash your hands," said Borg.
"It is important to receive your vaccine, particularly if you're less than two-years-old and over 65," said Nason.
According to DHEC from October 2011 to July 2012 only one person reportedly died from the flu.