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McLeod Seacoast Hospital in North Myrtle Beach on March 16, 2020. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

As the peak of flu season approaches during the worst pandemic in 100 years, local doctors are urging residents to get a flu shot.

"This is the most important flu shot that you will ever have," Dr. Gerald Harmon, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Tidelands Health, said.

Harmon said that after dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for the past nine months, hospitals are more prepared to fight the flu while also combatting the coronavirus.

"Now that we have more background and experience dealing with the COVID pandemic, we got some extra staffing as well as [an] adequate number of personal protective equipment," Harmon said.

During the 2019-20 flu season, around 3,000 people across South Carolina were hospitalized for that particular viral infection, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. There were 141 deaths connected to the flu that season, with 80 of them being folks older than 65, the department said. 

For comparison, DHEC reports that COVID-19 has killed at least 214 people this year in Horry County alone. Across the state, at least 3,776 residents have died of coronavirus, according to the public health agency.

So far, 19 people in South Carolina have been hospitalized with flu since the start of the season on Sept. 27, according to DHEC’s estimate. 

While local health experts want people to get flu shots, they are also stressing the importance of the three W's: wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your physical distance between others.

"We don't need to lay our guard down right now," Dr. Sherrill Nielsen, Chief Nursing Officer at McLeod Seacoast, said. "We need to be vigilant and stay healthy."

Nielsen added that people need to continue to self-monitor and watch for symptoms of the flu, as well as COVID-19.

This past week, Horry County saw a decrease in the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases for a second consecutive week.

Harmon says that the biggest indicator that flu-like symptoms are actually COVID-19 is the loss of taste or smell, “even when the loss of taste of smell is mild.” 

Harmon said people who experience those symptoms should get tested immediately.

For those want to get a flu shot, Tidelands Health is offering residents the opportunity to get one through a walk-in clinic. 

The walk-in flu shot clinics will be offered in Myrtle Beach on Fridays at Tidelands Health Medical Park at The Market Common, 2200 Crow Lane in Myrtle Beach. They will be offered from 8 a.m.-noon each Friday until Dec. 4.

The other walk-in clinic will be held in Pawleys Island at the Tidelands Health Family Medicine at 9699 Ocean Highway. That clinic will offer walk-in flu shots from 1:30-4 p.m. each Tuesday until Dec. 1.

Community members simply walk in during clinic hours to receive a flu shot, no appointment necessary.

Pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Walmart also offer flu shots.

For COVID-19 testing locations, visit https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-testing-locations.

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