KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The Knox County Health Department said they are seeing a pretty steep increase in flu cases earlier in the season, compared to previous years.
Dena Mashburn, Director of Nursing at the Knox County Health Department, broke it down and said it's a trend they are observing across Tennessee — cases going up earlier and faster.
As winter months approach, she said there is a possibility for a strong flu season. This prediction is based on what the department has observed in other countries that have already experienced their flu season.
"They saw one of the highest rates of flu that they'd seen in five years. So it's likely that we will see something very similar to that," Mashburn said.
In response to the current cases, she encourages East Tennesseans to get vaccinated before the holiday.
"There's a flu vaccine out there. Really recommend people take advantage of that," she said.
According to the CDC's weekly US flu map, Tennessee is labeled as "very high" on influenza activity level. Alabama and South Carolina are also in the same meter for Southern states.
If you are looking to get vaccinated against the flu, the Knox County Health Department will be providing flu vaccines to uninsured residents.
This is part of the department's Fight Flu Tennessee program. They will be at the Haslam-Sansom Ministry Complex Wednesday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Services are open to the public and help will be offered in both English and Spanish.
"Remembering that you're not just protecting yourself, but you're protecting those people around you and little children can get very sick," she said. "And elderly people can get very, very sick from the flu, as well as those in other age groups."
As for the impact the flu is having on children, the communication spokesperson at the East Tennessee Children's Hospital said they are seeing a large increase in positive flu cases.
Last week they saw 219 positive cases. The previous week they had seen 121 cases.
Although they are seeing a rise in influenza cases, they say flu hospitalizations remain low.
In response to this we reached out to Knox County Schools. KCS said in a statement: "Knox County Schools monitors student and staff absences and works closely with the Knox County Health Department for guidance regarding flu activity in our community. We encourage students and staff to stay home if they are sick and to follow the advice of their healthcare provider."