MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama Department of Public Health reports flu is widespread in six out of seven of the state’s public health districts.

Currently only the Northern District has not seen significant flu activity. Compared to this time last year, Alabama is well above its baseline levels.

“We’re anticipating a much more significant flu season this year,” Dr. Wes Stubblefield with ADPH said.

Stubblefield says the state hasn’t seen substantial flu activity since the 2019-2020 season, right before COVID. He says the uptick now is likely due to a relaxing of COVID precautions that also protect against flu, as well as a slow uptake in flu shots this year.

“It’s safe to say flu is here. It’s in the state. It’s going up, and we need to get protected as quickly as possible,” Stubblefield said.

Jefferson County Health Offficer Dr. David Hicks says his county has seen the bulk of the cases in Alabama. While the baseline percent of flu-like illness the state reports is typically about 3%, he says Jefferson County is at 5%.

“If you compare this time of the year versus last year in Jefferson County, we’re seeing about a 20% increase than what we saw last year at the same time,” Hicks said.

Hicks encourages anyone who is able to to get the vaccine, because while flu can be mild for some, it can be severe for those who are older, very young, or those with weakened immune systems.

“It puts not only strain on our school systems, our hospital systems, let alone, you don’t want to be sick and ill,” Hicks said.

It takes a couple weeks for antibodies to build up after vaccination, so Hicks recommends getting it sooner rather than later.

Both Dr. Hicks and Stubblefield say another indicator this could be a bigger flu season is because southern hemisphere countries, which have opposite seasons, saw substantial flu activity this year.