NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nashville area doctors are warning people about the flu before the holidays, urging the public to get vaccinated before gathering around the dinner table.

“Influenza started early (this year), and it started fiercely,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine said.

Schaffner told News 2 the flu isn’t any worse this year. However, some infected people are waiting longer to receive treatment, allowing time for serious illness to set in.

“We adults tend to put off going to see the doctor,” Schaffner said. “Mom will bring a young child in to see the pediatrician very quickly, but we adults put it off. It’s important to determine whether you have COVID or the flu, because we have treatments for both that will prevent the complications.”

In addition, nationwide flu vaccination rates are at the lowest since the pandemic, which means fewer people are protected from serious illnesses, like pneumonia, caused by the flu.

Schaffner told News 2 that’s worrisome when people gather together over the holidays because they could spread germs if they’re infected.

“We’re concerned that during the holidays, people travel, they get together, they spend time closely with each other,” Schaffner said.

Before the holidays, doctors suggest getting vaccinated for both the flu and COVID to help protect you from getting severely ill or spreading your infected germs to others more vulnerable to the virus. You can receive both vaccines at the same time, too.

“If you have symptoms, stay home,” Schaffner said. “We’ll send you a plate of turkey, but you can’t come to the celebration and spread your virus to other people.”