COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Doctors are keeping a close eye on what is going on with the flu this year as cases and hospitalizations are hitting earlier and more often than in past years.

Statewide data shows flu-associated hospitalizations are up significantly at this point in the year compared to the previous five, and doctors said they’re seeing it in central Ohio hospitals as well.

“The flu is a nasty virus,” said Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Dr. Christina Liscynesky. “It makes people, people are very ill with the flu and so that’s one of the reasons we follow this very closely.”

Flu cases and flu-associated hospitalizations are rising, but that is usually what happens in colder months. This year, doctors said more cases are happening earlier than usual.

“We’ve noticed the last two weeks, in particular the last week, the flu has really picked up significantly,” Liscynesky said. “We’re seeing a lot of people, more people hospitalized than we had previously.”

Liscynesky and Mount Carmel infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Herbert both said their hospitals have seen an even more noticeable increase in flu cases and hospitalizations recently.

“We’ve seen a big increase this week in hospitalizations, but also a big increase in outpatient, positive tests in the outpatient setting,” Herbert said. “So we’re seeing more flu cases not only in the hospital but in the community.”

Data from the Ohio Department of Health shows 433 flu-associated hospitalizations statewide at the end of the latest available reporting period in mid-November. The average for the previous five years hovers around 20 cases statewide.

“I think every flu season has a little bit of a different curve in terms of when the cases arise,” Herbert said. “I don’t know why this year is a little different. The last few years have been light in terms of flu cases, but this is a concerning hint that maybe flu cases will be bad this year.”

Given what the doctors are seeing now, they both strongly recommend getting the flu shot as soon as possible if you haven’t already.