The flu strain is the most dominant of the year

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We are still weeks away from the peak of flu season but the virus is already making its way through East Tennessee.

The Centers for Disease Controlreports the flu is "widespread" in ten states-- up from none two weeks ago. In Tennessee, the CDC considers the flu to be "regional" or one step down from "widespread."

The Knox County Health Department said their reporting doctors are seeing an increase in flu cases, specifically the H1N1 strain.

"We are seeing it {flu cases} go up. And typically we see it go up in states around us and then in other places and we'll see it go up in Knox County as well," said Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan.

The H1N1 may sound scary, but its symptoms are the same as any other flu.

"It varies every year what's the predominant strain but what people need to understand is that it's part of flu now and its going to be around for a few years," said Dr. Buchanan.

Knox County resident Sharon Dabney knows the flu all too well.

"It's miserable. When I get it I am usually down for maybe a week or more," said Dabney.

This year she's hoping to avoid it all together. Monday she took her daughter to get the flu vaccine at the health department.

"If you have not gotten your flu shot, the message we want you to hear is get it now. It's not too late. It's protective and it's helpful," Dr. Buchanan said.

Dr. Buchanan said the good news is that the H1N1 strain is included in this year's vaccine. She said it's all the more reason to get a flu shot if you haven't already.

The elderly, young people, and people with pre-existing conditions like heart disease are more at risk for complications for the flu. Dr. Buchanan said if you are in this category and start feeling flu symptoms, you should see a doctor.

The flu shot is recommended for everyone over 6 months.

The virus is not expected to peak until sometime in January or February.

Click here for information on how to get a flu shot from the Knox County Health Department.

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