KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE)– The U.S. Centers for Disease Control data shows Tennessee is one of seven states with classified as having “very high” levels of influenza. Around 1,300 flu deaths have been reported across the country, including at least three children.

Knox County Health Department staff say East Tennessee is seeing a spike about a month ahead of when flu levels normally increase.

With several schools closing last week due to sickness, parents are concerned. One Knox County mom said her child was at home sick last week, one of many.

East Tennessee health experts say flu season is off to an early start and they’re expecting numbers to be much higher than last year. Roberta Sturm with the Knox County Health Department changes in how people mask up and sanitize may be part of the change.

“Last year we didn’t really have a strong flu season because there were a lot of things in place, there were social distancing, people were taking extra measures to protect themselves from covid which may have contributed to a much-decreased flu season last year,” Sturm said.

When it comes to the flu in the classroom, Knox County Schools tells us it works closely with the Knox County Health Department. This past Friday, the school system told WATE 6 that the lowest student attendance rate that week was 88.5%.

“It’s been all over Facebook — parents that I’m friends with, teachers that I’m friends with — that have said Knox County has been hit hard with it,” said Sarah Moyers, whose son is in 2nd grade. 

Moyers said her son William is normally, “really funny, really outgoing, very talkative.” However, the 7-year-old wasn’t his usual outgoing self last week. 

“His symptoms started randomly on Sunday. He woke up, he was fine, and then literally out of nowhere, he told me he didn’t feel good all of a sudden and he said his stomach was hurting, his throat was hurting and his head was hurting,” Moyers said.

By Monday, William’s fever was above 102 and Sarah took him to their pediatrician. She said his flu test came back positive,

“She [the pediatrician] just said Tylenol, Motrin, and rest. She said to push fluids as much as I can. I don’t have to necessarily make him eat but as long as he’s drinking and using the bathroom then we are good,” Moyers said.

The health department said they’re seeing two different variants as the cause of most influenza cases.

“Nationally it’s the H3N2 variant as well as H1N1,” Strum said. “We’re seeing H1N1 here locally.”

Sturm said this year’s flu shots cover both strains.

The Knox County Health Department is providing the flu vaccine at all of its locations. You’re asked to call to make an appointment at 865-215-5150.

Meanwhile, Moyers said after almost a week, William is pretty much back to normal. He’s just a little congested still. But his mom has a message for other parents who may also be dealing with a child with the flu.

“Stay strong for your kid because they are going to be down for the count. My child was down for five days. I had never seen him that sick before,” Moyers said.