SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

It's not a welcomed start to the new year, but unfortunately the flu is here.

That's something Jeffrey Mitchell knows all too well. "[I've been] achy, nausea and everything. Cold, congestion, just real tired and fatigue," adds Mitchell.

According to the Sullivan County Health Department, more doctor's offices are seeing an increase in patients with the flu. "I don't think that our area has hit its peak yet, even though we are seeing increased rates of the flu," says Kim Austin with the Sullivan County Health Department.

Doctors can do tests to determine if you really have the flu or if it's something else. However, those results don't have to be reported to the health department, so there's no data about the number of cases.

If you get the flu, doctors can prescribe something to help decrease the days you're sick, but the best advice is to avoid getting sick altogether. Some common tips to avoid getting or spreading the flu: get vaccinated -- we're told it’s not too late; cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing; don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose; and stay home if you don’t feel well.

"There are a lot of people who will go on into work even with a fever, coughing, those kinds of things. It's very important that if you are running a fever you're having any symptoms of the flu to stay in. Don't go to work, don't send your kids to school, keep them home. That helps the rest of the community," adds Austin.

Getting a flu shot is something Jeffrey Mitchell says he'll do from now on. "I've always gone under that assumption that I don't need it. I learned my lesson, that's for sure," he told us.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu symptoms include fever, aches, cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose.