According to federal health officials, this year's flu season could be one of the worst.
This is not your typical December. The weather is unseasonably warm, and the flu season is unusually early.
Federal health officials say influenza is already reaching high levels in several states including Tennessee. The state's commissioner of health said Tuesday this is the earliest start to the flu season since 2003. "This is a little bit early, my experience the first cases show up in late December,” says Dr. Clint Sutherland.
He says the flu typically peaks in late January.
Doctors in the Tri-Cities say they have already diagnosed the dreaded disease. "We had two documented cases in the last two days," says Dr. Sutherland.
The Tennessee Department of Health reports the number of cases is up more than four percent from this time last year.
Doctor Sutherland says prevention is key and now is the time to get vaccinated. "Vaccination is not 100 percent,” says Sutherland, “but it's certainly the best insurance policy you have."
The flu shot works for the vast majority of patients, but not everyone.
Doctor Sutherland told us he believes more are receiving the vaccination based on the more than 600 his office has administered. "Vaccinations are going well, it's not too late if you've not been vaccinated,” says Sutherland. “I encourage you to go out and get vaccinated now."
Most of the influenza cases in Tennessee are being reported in west Tennessee near Memphis and around the Knoxville area.