Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The 2012-2013 flu season has already been hitting the nation hard with its early start and widespread confirmed flu cases. Now officials at Essentia Health in Duluth are reporting a recent spike in flu cases in the Northland. Essentia's Duluth facility reports that seven patients are currently being hospitalized with confirmed cases of influenza with another dozen hospitalized patients who are waiting for test results. In Minnesota, since the start of the 2012-2013 flu season, 578 cases have been confirmed across the state with four deaths related to the flu. Health experts say that there is still time to get to get vaccinated against the flu. Other ways to prevent the flu include regular hand washing with soap and water or use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Practice good “cough hygiene” by coughing into your elbow or a tissue, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Children under age 2, adults age 65 and older, people with chronic health conditions, compromised immune systems, and women who are pregnant or have delivered a baby within the last two weeks are at a higher risk for complications. Health officials urge that these people seek medical care for the onset of flu symptoms, so they can be prescribed an anti-viral medication if indicated. Anyone with the flu who experiences difficulty breathing, confusion or dizziness, chest or abdominal pain/pressure, persistent vomiting, or a change in skin color to bluish or grey should seek medical attention as well. Posted to the web by Krista Burns