Influenza, or “the flu”—call it what you will—has officially arrived in South Carolina! “Our agency’s Bureau of Laboratories has confirmed five cases of flu in the Midlands area of the state,” said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. “This confirmation reinforces the need for vaccination and the good sense steps to prevent the spread of the flu virus.” Influenza is a naturally occurring viral disease that causes respiratory infections. Symptoms may include: a sudden onset of fever; dry cough; headache; muscle aches; tiredness; sore throat; and nasal congestion or stuffiness. DHEC will focus its resources on flu shots for those uninsured, under-insured, and those who cannot receive a flu vaccine anywhere else. There are many flu vaccine providers in local communities across South Carolina to serve people with health insurance and those who have the ability to pay for the vaccine. DHEC requests that individuals with Medicare, Medicaid, or other type of health insurance coverage for the flu vaccine visit their health care provider or local pharmacy to get a flu shot.