COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP/WVOC) - State health officials say that the first cases of the flu for the fall and winter season have been reported in South Carolina.

Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell says that Department of Health and Environmental Control labs have confirmed five cases in the Midlands.

Bell says the best way to prevent the spread of the flu is with vaccinations which are recommended for everyone six months of age or older.

While the peak of the flu season is in February, the earlier people get vaccinated, the longer their bodies have a chance to strengthen a natural resistance to the virus.

The flu is characterized by sudden fever, dry cough, headache and muscle aches as well as fatigue, sore throat and nasal congestion.