COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) — South Carolina’s lead health agency reported the state’s first pediatric flu-related death of the season on Monday.

Dr. Linda Bell, an epidemiologist with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, said a child from the Midlands area died recently from complications of the flu.

Bell said that while the flu can circulate at any time of the year, the season officially began on Oct. 1.

“Although we are early in the season, we have been seeing widespread flu activity since the first week,” Bell said. “This suggests we could have a severe flu season, and we all must take action to protect ourselves and others.”

Health officials say anyone 65 or older, young children and those with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of complications from the flu.

“But complications can unpredictably occur even among young and previously healthy people,” Bell said.

DHEC and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months or older who is eligible.

Health officials said it takes about two weeks for the body to build up protection after getting the flu vaccine.

“So it’s important to get vaccinated soon to prevent more illnesses since flu has already spread widely in South Carolina and other states,” DHEC said.