Updated: 01/09/2014 6:04 PM KSTP.com By: Kate Renner
Photo: Photo: MGN Online
Influenza is back in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Department of Health says across the state, 36 people were newly hospitalized with influenza during the week ending Saturday. That brings total hospitalizations in the state to 104 so far this season.
The new hospitalizations were a 50 percent increase over 24 new hospitalizations the previous week, according to numbers released Thursday.
Flu season has officially begun, and can last as late as March, so even if you've dodge the bug over the holidays it could still try to come for you this winter.
This year's flu strain is looking eerily similar to last years, according to Dr. Frank Rhame, an infectious disease specialists.
In 2012 and 2013 we saw a record number of hospitalizations in the second week of January; nearly 650 cases.
The H1N1 virus is very good at getting around, and the best way to protect ourselves is to get a flu shot. Vaccines are way short of perfect, but your probability of getting influenza is less if you're vaccinated, according to Dr. Frank Rhame.
You can try to ward off unwanted germs by washing your hands often.
"You touch a door knob somebody touched it before hand, you touch your eye, lips and that's actual contact that gets into us," Rhame said.
And if you're the one with the flu, do your friends and neighbors a favor and cough into your sleeve or a Kleenex, this airborne virus spreads fast.
Dr. Rhame says don't always head to the doctor if you feel flu-like symptoms coming on. If you're really sick or have high risk factors then of course, go to the hospital.
But if you're fundamentally healthy, it's best to stay home, and call your doctors office so you don't spread the flu to other patients in the waiting room.
Health department spokesman Doug Shultz tells the St. Paul Pioneer Press that "things are starting to increase."
More Minnesotans were hospitalized with flu a year ago at this time - 173 new hospitalizations were reported during the comparable week in 2012.
But Schultz says it's too early to know how the current flu season ultimately will compare with last season, which was Minnesota's worst flu season in five years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.