CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The CDC is reporting a more severe strain of the flu is causing an early spike in cases across the country.

So far New England has been spared by elevated flu cases according to the most recent report from the CDC, but local health experts say not so fast with the holiday season right around the corner.

Across the country, the CDC’s weekly surveillance report indicates more than 880,000 cases and 6,900 hospitalizations so far this season. Those hospitalization numbers are more typical around Christmas than Halloween.

“I’m concerned that the one we are seeing the majority of, cases are H3N2, and that version of the flu isn’t necessarily more contagious, but certainly more harsher,” said Dr. Smith.

It’s the worst in the Southeast but it’s creeping up the coast; New York City seeing high activity and Connecticut moving toward moderate. In Massachusetts, activity remains low but cases are higher than this week over the last three years.

The severity of the flu for most people is not a reason to cancel holiday plans. However, depending on the health status of people attending your gathering, it might be worth checking in. If you’re feeling sick, doctors recommend checking in with your host or guests to see if they are still comfortable getting together.

“Most people get the flu and do fine, but not everybody is fine when they get the flu. You would hate to be the person looking back at it thinking maybe I shouldn’t have gone,” said Dr. Smith.

Data from the last few years proves face masks and social distance do prevent flu cases but the flu vaccine is your best bet. Just 23 percent of Bay Staters have gotten that shot but it’s still early. Dr. Smith added truly the best time is before Thanksgiving.