We are a month away from the peak of flu season, but doctors say we are already on the verge of an epidemic in the River Region and are predicting this could be the worst flu season we've seen in years.
Doctors' offices and urgent care clinics have been slammed with flu patients, and those who are sick say they've been waiting for hours to be seen by a doctor.
"Constant runny nose. Stuffiness in my cheeks," says Charles Ingram of Montgomery.
This isn't the way Ingram wanted to start the new year. He's one of the many flu patients packed in the waiting room at Taylor Crossings Pri Med in Montgomery. Like Ingram most are suffering from fatigue mixed with a fever, cough, runny nose and body aches.
"I was here earlier this morning, went home, and they just called me back. It's been about two and a half hours since I first arrived here," he says.
Kindra Newell is just a few seats over.
"if you're trying to see your doctor, it's two whole months. If you're trying to go to the hospital, because I tried to go there, she told me it was a four to six hour wait," she says.
Montgomery Doctor Jefferson Underwood says his office is swarming with patients with the flu and flu-like illnesses. And judging by the numbers, Underwood says it's ramping up to be one of the worst flu seasons the River Region has seen in decades.
"It's predicted to grow before the next month or so," he says.
Underwood says this year's flu can cause serious illness, but the good news is that it's not too late to get a flu shot. He recommends anyone over the age of six months to get the vaccine.
"It's like the canary in the coal mine. It's a warning sign," Underwood says. "If you haven't been vaccinated, this is a good time to get vaccinated."
Underwood says another way to keep from getting sick: make sure you wash your hands frequently. He says if you are feeling under the weather, it's best to get to doctor sooner than later.
According the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average 25,000 people die each flu season.