School bells will ring across Knox County Tuesday as the new semester begins. However, students and other East Tennesseans are facing the ongoing threat of illness, as the country copes with a harsh flu season.
USA Today reports the proportion of people going to a doctor for the flu hit 5.6 percent in recent days. Last year, those numbers peaked at just two percent.
Across the country 41 states, including Tennessee, have reported the flu is widespread.
Dr. Bob Overholt of Allergy, Asthma, & Sinus Center in Knoxville sat down with 10News to answer to questions about the flu season this year
How bad is the bug this year?
"Everybody in town is sick. All the doctors' offices in town are filled," he said. "And the question is: Is this just a routine virus or is this the true flu that is finally hitting? It is the flu but, in addition, there is an another upper-respiratory 'flu like illness' that's going around."
Is it too late to get a flu shot?
"[The flu] is going to keep spreading until it has run its course. That may be another six to eight weeks, so you've got plenty of time to still get your flu shot," Dr. Overholt said.
What is the school district doing to help prevent illness?
Dr. Jim McIntyre says the district works closely with the Knox County Health Department.
"We work closely with them around a flu mist inoculation program which has been very successful," he said. "Their advice is to make sure kids are washing hands and, when kids do have the flu, that they stay home from school."
So far this school year, Knox County has not closed school due to illness.
Flu prevention tips
Dr. Bob says regularly washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, plus a getting a flu shot are the best ways to prevent catching or spreading the flu.