KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – Flu season across East Tennessee continues to get worse.
The regional health office released its latest figures for the 15 county region on Friday and flu cases are up dramatically in all but one county.
Overall, the number of flu cases and flu-like illnesses jumped from about 1,100 on February 16th to nearly 1,900 on February 22nd.
Blount County appears to have experienced the most significant increases over that time with about 130 new cases.
Morgan and Scott Counties are reporting the fewest number of cases and Anderson County is the only county that did not experience an increase this week.
Medical experts say one of the best ways to protect yourself from flu right now is to avoid public places where a lot of people congregate.
But should that also include your congregation?
Sunday School at Parkway Baptist Church is held in the very same classrooms as their Mother's Day Out program..
While Knox County Schools have been closed due to illness, instructors have been disinfecting classrooms.
There efforts will first be put to the test on Sunday.
"It's always a concern when small children are together because children have germs,” said Kelly LeMarr from Parkway Baptist. “You just have to do the best you can do, keep cleaning, and keep washing hands."
Meantime, in the sanctuary, cleanliness is next to godliness, and Parkway’s staff has been working overtime to disinfect it from top to bottom while trying to stop the spread of the illnesses that have been affecting attendance.
“We are doing a lot to be very careful,” LeMarr said. “We have been wiping down all the tables, all the door handles, door knobs, light switches and taking extra precautions, like the backs of chairs."
According to LeMarr, it's natural to want to shake hands and share hugs with the familiar faces you see at your Sunday service.
Just remember to take some precautions this time of year.
"You always do the meet and greet thing so you want to use your Germ X or your hand sanitizer afterwords and just be careful," she said. "If you're sick, stay home. I know it's hard to be home, but if you are sick, you need to stay home and get better. You'll get better quicker, if you're home resting."
The time away from crowds will also help stop the spread of illness to other members of your congregation.
Many people feel an obligation to attend church each and every Sunday, but if you are sick, you might want to consider some other options.
Several churches offer video and audio recordings of their services, and you can catch services from local churches live, every Sunday morning on WVLT.