(WMC-TV) - Mid-Southerners are gearing up for the worst flu season since 2003.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Tennessee and Mississippi are already seeing high cases of the flu.
The Shelby County Health Department says the flu shot is the best way to stay healthy.
"The true influenza usually hits you very suddenly. You may be feeling very well and then all of a sudden it hits you like a freight train," said Dr. Helen Morrow, Shelby County Health Department.
The CDC reports that an early flu season is here and it is hitting hard.
Dr. Helen Morrow says a new H3N2 strain of the flu has been severe.
The disease hospitalizes more than 200,000 people and kills some 50,000 Americans each year.
"We encourage people very strongly to get the vaccine it's the best way to prevent this," said Dr. Morrow.
Dr. Morrow says it is actually Influenza Week and as part of their campaign they say there are no more excuses.
You can get the flu vaccine in several locations across the community including schools, pharmacies, the workplace, and of course, at the health department.
Dispelling the myth that "the flu vaccines make you sick", Morrow also says it is important to take the flu season seriously and always practice good hygiene.
"Wash your hands, try to avoid touching around your nose and mouth during this season," she said.
The Shelby County Health Department will be providing free flu shots on Saturday, December 8 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Southland Mall.