NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A major spike in flu cases was reported in Tennessee Friday as health officials brace for what appears to be America’s worst flu season in more than a decade.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) flu map, which was updated on Friday, Nov. 4, shows Tennessee as one of the worst places in the country for flu season.

Within one week, the Volunteer State jumped from the top of the “high” activity level (light red) all the way to the top of the “very high” activity level (purple). However, the color purple is not typically seen on the flu map in the mid-autumn.

In other words, if you haven’t crossed paths with someone who has already had the flu this season at your house, there’s a good chance it’s happened at your workplace, your school, or another location you frequent, such as a grocery store.

We’re used to seeing a rise in flu cases around January. This time, though, the virus is making an early appearance, sparking concerns about the upcoming holiday season.

“I think respiratory viruses are probably the big risk, the big exposure that you get to when you go to holiday parties and hang around family and that sort of stuff at the holidays, respiratory viruses spread by aerosolized secretions,” Dr. Todd Rice, the director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, previously told News 2.

Meanwhile, many people haven’t even gotten vaccinated yet, which makes the early and hard-hitting launch to the flu season more problematic because it can take about two weeks for the flu shot to start working against this contagious illness.

“Vaccination obviously has been what we’ve been preaching for a while to protect folks. And it’s still the best protection that we have,” explained Rice.

Some Tennessee schools are already feeling the effects of the premature flu season, including St. Cecelia Academy in Nashville that shut down on Friday due to sickness.

Other school districts being added to the list are Perry County Schools, which will be closed on Monday, Nov. 7 and Tuesday, Nov. 8 due to illness, as well as Coffee County Schools, which will be closed on Monday because of sickness, but will still proceed with extracurricular activities.

Besides getting vaccinated, there are several things you can do to help slow the spread of the virus. For example, doctors urge you to wash your hands often, wear a mask if you’re worried, and stay home if you’re sick.

Meanwhile, with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 also spreading among community members, some people are confused over actual flu symptoms. With regard to the flu, watch out for the following:

  • Fever or feverish feeling with chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (especially among children)

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For more information about the flu, visit the CDC’s website.