MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Mid-South hospitals are warning patients that the flu is on the rise in the area.
Le Bonheur Children's Hospital and Methodist both said their doctors are seeing a lot more cases of the virus.
"Our office saw 15 documented cases of influenza last week and that's unheard of," Dr. J.O. Patterson said.
Dr.Patterson with the Methodist Medical Group said it seems the flu season is starting earlier and hitting harder.
The CDC reports widespread flu activity in seven states, including here in the Mid-South in Arkansas and Mississippi.
Nearly 10,000 cases have already been reported so far this year. That's more than twice as many as last year this time.
The CDC confirms the flu has killed seven children this season.
One of the best protections against the virus is the flu shot.
Dr. Patterson said it's good to get the flu shot because if anything it can help lessen the severity of your flu symptoms.
In addition to the flu shot, he also said the best protection is washing your hands frequently.
"A lot of people think it's aerosols, but what really happens is people cough in their hands and without really thinking they just shake hands with someone," said Dr. Patterson.
If you're unsure if it's a cold or the flu, there are a few immediate symptoms.
"One of the hallmarks of influenza is the sudden onset of fever, chills, muscle aches, people feel like they've been beaten up," Dr. Patterson said.
He also said to be mindful, especially during this time of year.
"With the holiday season there is more opportunity to interact with people, spreading cheer and joy. In addition you may be spreading the flu virus also," he said.
If you are sick or think you have the flu, call your doctor and stay home from work or school.