RIO GRANDE (CBSDFW.COM) — As health professionals are bracing for what’s expected to be another tough flu season, a 5-year-old from the Rio Grande has died from the virus — the first child death of the season.

The numbers are rising every week, and Internal Medicine specialist at Texas Health Dallas Dr. Donna Casey said the cases even came early.

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“We actually started seeing the flu in August, and it’s usually my travelers that we see first. We’ve had cases of all ages,” Casey said.

Just this week, flu activity surpassed the average level, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“We’ve seen an increase week-to-week,” Casey said. “We’re expecting another increase after Thanksgiving as people travel and then congregate, because you can be shedding virus for 5 days, and also the flu can live on a surface for two days.”

She said an unusually high fall allergy season doesn’t help.

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“With all the allergies in Dallas, people are constantly blowing their nose and rubbing their face,” Casey said.

For patients such as Sarah Buchanan, her history makes the flu shot a no-brainer.

“For the two years that I didn’t get the flu shot, I did have pneumonia,” Buchanan said. “If I had gotten the flu shot, I don’t think I would have been as bad.”

Dr. Casey said the shot — plus sanitation — is the best way to stay virus-free. But her practice will be prepared for the inevitable.

“We will be extra staffed the week after Thanksgiving. I plan on the Monday after Thanksgiving having people lining outside of my door when I get here in the morning who are sick,” she said.

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The peak of the flu season is getting later and later, but it’s usually around Valentine’s Day. Flu season is expected to go until mid-April this year.