MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Health officials are sounding the alarm about the impact the flu is having across the country and specifically in the Mid-South.

With coronavirus rates declining, another infection is on the rise.

Tennessee and Mississippi have some of the highest flu rates in the country right now, according to the CDC. Those on the front lines are certainly feeling the impact, just ask Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an Infectious Disease Specialist with Baptist Memorial Hospital.

“It’s about as bad a year as we have seen since prior the prior flu pandemic,” said Dr. Threlkeld. “Walk any emergency department waiting room just about in the country and it’s full of people with flu-like illness. So, we worry about the increase in hospitalizations.”

Data from the Shelby County Health Department shows that since September there has been a steady rise in cases of those with flu-like illnesses. Dr. Threlkeld says it has not been this bad since around 2009 and it has to do, in part, with restrictions being lifted from the pandemic.

“You add those things together and you really make for a recipe kind of a bad season of the flu. Unfortunately, that’s what we are seeing,” he said.

So, what can you do to stay safe? Dr. Threlkeld recommends you wash your hands effectively. Also, when sick, avoid going to school or work. And be sure to sneeze in your arms and consider getting the flu vaccine.

“If you do those simple kind of things, you can really cut down on the transmission of flu. As we said, the flu is easier to prevent than COVID has been. If we do those kinds of things that most folks grandmother taught them, it can really make a dent,” he said.

Despite the increase, local hospitals in Memphis have not reportedly reached capacity and are equipped to handle additional patients. 

Flu vaccines are being offered at all Shelby County Health Department clinics. For more on where you can get a free flu shot, click here.