CRAVEN COUNTY - The flu season is off to its earliest start in a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC reports thousands of people have been hospitalized across the country and eighteen children have even died.
Hospitals from coast to coast are being forced to divert patients from overcrowded emergency rooms.
It's so bad in Boston; the mayor there has declared a public health emergency.
North Carolina is one of 29 states reported with high levels of influenza.
Doctor Ronald Preston at the Coastal Carolina Healthcare Center says they are seeing a significant increase in flu cases this year.
"They're packed in the emergency room, they're packed in express care. We're seeing a lot more illnesses and a lot of it is flu like illnesses," said Doctor Preston.
The flu vaccine is still available around the area.
Some people believe that getting the flu shot can make you sick, but Doctor Preston says that's not the case.
"Many people who get the flu shot, even if they get exposed to the influenza virus, will not get it. But some people will present generally a milder illness than if they didn't have the flu vaccine," said Doctor Preston
The most common way to spread the flu is by coughing, spreading droplets of germs throughout the air.
If you want to protect yourself from the flu, or others if you think you have the flu, one solution can be wearing a mask.
Doctor Preston says when it comes to the flu his healthcare center is taking extra precautions.
"We pass out masks in the offices and in the urgent care if you present flu like illness," said Doctor Preston
Although the peak of flu season hasn't shown itself just yet, Dr. Preston says his center will continue to prepare for the worst.