DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Flu season is here and already at peak level.

“This is far higher than what we usually expect for this time of the year,” said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist with Duke Health.

The weekly CDC flu map shows North Carolina and six surrounding states as purple, meaning the highest category of flu activity.

“We typically think of flu as a seasonal thing where its peak and uptrend occurs maybe late December but typically January and February, so that is certainly sort of translated really two months earlier than normal,” Wolfe said. “And the last time we really saw something occur this early was actually back in 2009 when H1N1 first emerged as a new virus.”

So far, Dr. Wolfe says there’s nothing new about the flu strain itself but what is new is our social situation coming out of the COVID pandemic.

“There’s a lot of us over the last three years who haven’t had flu because we’ve all been cautious with masking and COVID precaution,” Wolfe said. “So, I think there’s unknowns here that make me want to really sort of urge people: how are you thinking of thanksgiving, thinking about Christmas coming up, you still have a window here that you can get a flu shot for example and really be protected from this.”

Data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows 12 adult flu deaths and one child death so far since October.

As we inch towards winter, it’s still unclear exactly what this flu season holds.

“I think our big question is does this continue for three months or is this a short and sharp event?” Dr. Wolfe said. “I don’t think we know that yet.”

Certainly, Dr. Wolfe said, local hospitals are feeling the strain right now with flu, RSV, and COVID cases all coming through the doors at once.