Influenza just starting to hit the Northland

By KBJR News 1

December 27, 2013 Updated Dec 27, 2013 at 7:08 PM CDT

Duluth, Minn (NNCNOW.com) -- The Northland is just starting to see an up tick in the number of influenza cases this year and some have already taken steps to prevent getting sick.

"Yes I got a flu shot this year, I work at Essentia health so I'm in health care facility and I don't really want to get sick," said Billy Jo Godfrey.

Pharmacists at Walgreens say they have had more people coming in this year to get a flu shot and started giving out the shot at the end of August.

"We really started promoting them and pushing them in September especially in this area a lot quicker than the rest of the country so our flu season starts a little bit early," said Kristen Stone, Pharmacy Manager at the Superior St. Walgreens in Duluth.

Last year, more than 600 cases were reported this time last year across the state of Minnesota.

However experts say this year they are just starting to see an uptick in the virus.

"This year we have not seen them up until about a week ago and now finally we are having a number of clinical cases of influenza like illness and now we have had confirmed cases, about a half dozen of confirmed cases here at St. Luke's that are proven by the Minnesota department of health," said Linda Van Etta, infectious diseases specialist for St. Luke's hospital in Duluth.

As of this last week, there have only been 36 hospitalized influenza cases in Minnesota.

Experts say the best way to prevent getting the flu is to get the shot which changes every year with the strains.

"So far all of the isolates have been Influenza A and H1N1 strain which first appeared in the work in 2009 with the swine flu pandemic, that has now become part of our seasonal influenza strains," said Van Etta.

The peak season for influenza is in January and February, but some were preparing well before then.

"It usually picks up in October, the month of October and the beginning of November, then it slows down after that," said Stone.

Experts say the most common way the flu virus is spread by not washing your hands, so make sure to wash your hands regularly especially though out the peak flu months.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.