MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Flu cases are on the rise in Shelby county. The health department’s website shows influenza activity is high and, in some cases, some people are going to the emergency room.

In Memphis and across the country, doctors are warning that this flu season could be worse than those in recent years.

“We cannot just take things for granted. We’ve got to take all the necessary precautions,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Manoj Jain.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged everyone six months and older to get their flu shot. Public health officials are worried about a false sense of security after two milder flu seasons due to COVID precautions.

“We are much more open up in gatherings and people are masking less compared to what we did a couple of years ago,” Jain said. “I would expect there will be more likely cases than what we’ve seen previously.”

The Shelby County Health Department’s Influenza-like Illness Surveillance shows influenza activity is high. The percentage of emergency department visits last week was 4.1 percent.

This is higher than the 1.7 percent seen this time last year.  

“It’s absolutely okay. It’s safe,” Jain said. “It’s very effective, and it’s really worth getting them.”

But according to a National Foundation for Infectious Diseases survey, less than half of US adults plan to get a flu shot this year and just a third feel safe getting a flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

Still, doctors stress that vaccines are safe and may prevent death.    

“It’s really important to remember these vaccines are safe,” Jain said. “They are effective and even children can get them. We would really encourage everybody to get vaccinated.”