NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Flu season has arrived early in Tennessee, with cases of seasonal influenza already widespread throughout the state.
Health officials say this is the earliest start of the flu season in nearly a decade. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified Tennessee as one of four states that already have high flu activity.
Some area school districts are already feeling the impact of the early start to the season. So many students are sick in Clay, Van Buren, and Monroe Counties, now schools are closed for the rest of the week. This comes after schools in Macon and Stewart Counties were closed part of last week.
In Bellevue, people are already lining up for flu shots at The Little Clinic at Kroger. Nurse Practitioner Marilyn Wyatt Harris said that is a welcome sign.
"After hearing about cases on the rise, we are hoping people will go ahead and take precautions and get vaccinated earlier rather than later," said Wyatt Harris. "The hope is they can protect themselves and family friends and loved ones."
Officials at the Tennessee Department of Health said this year's vaccine is a good match for the strains circulating across the country. They agree a simple flu shot is the best way to stay healthy.
"Anyone over six months old should get a vaccine," said John Dunn at the Tennessee Department of Health. "It's important to protect yourself and those around you as well."
Dunn said there are plenty of flu vaccinations to go around, but patients need to remember It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to take effect.
Officials say Tennesseans should also focus on washing their hands frequently, wiping down surfaces like cell phones, and most importantly, staying home if they don't feel well.
Health officials believe even with an early start to the flu season, cases could continue through January or February and could linger as late as May.