State health authorities are reporting the first influenza-associated death of the season, along with significant and earlier-than-normal increases in flu activity. “Tragically, a child from Barnwell County has become our first confirmed influenza-associated death of the season,” said Linda Bell, M.D. and interim state epidemiologist. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused the influenza virus. The flu can cause mild to severe illness and can be deadly —especially to vulnerable people including the very young and the elderly. Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat and nasal congestion or stuffiness. Dr. Bell recommends vaccinations against the flu as soon as possible.