Flu now widespread in MN

Courtesy: KARE 11

(KARE 11) 'Tis the season for getting sick and health officials say it's definitely making the rounds.

The flu is now considered widespread in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

This week alone, 172 people were hospitalized due to the flu. Officials say 132 were hospitalized last week. Total hospitalizations for the year so far are at 585.

The average age of those admitted to the hospital for the flu was 71.

Because of this widespread activity, Allina Health announced it would be restricting visitors at its facilities. Starting Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 Allina Health will restrict children under the age of 5 from visiting patients. Those who are sick should not visit patients and those who have a cough or sore throat will be asked to wear a mask while in the building. Mercy Hospital, Mercy Hospital-Unity Campus and St. Francis Regional Medical Center already began these restrictions, due to a high volume of patients with flu-like symptoms.

Allina Health hospitals include:

• Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Minneapolis

• Buffalo Hospital

• Cambridge Medical Center

• District One Hospital, Faribault

• Mercy Hospital, Coon Rapids

• Mercy Hospital - Unity Campus, Fridley

• New Ulm Medical Center

• Owatonna Hospital

• Phillips Eye Institute, Minneapolis

• Regina Hospital, Hastings

• River Falls Area Hospital, River Falls, Wis.

• St. Francis Regional Medical Center, Shakopee

• United Hospital, St. Paul

According to the CDC, Minnesota is just one of 36 states across the country currently dealing with widespread influenza activity.

The CDC says the best way to protect yourself from the flu is by getting a flu vaccine, protecting yourself from the flu virus by washing your hands, avoiding those who are sick and staying home for at least 24 hours if you have symptoms of the flu.

Vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year though recent studies show that the flu shot typically reduces the risk of illness by 40 percent to 60 percent among the overall population when the circulating virus is matched closely to the vaccine virus, according to the CDC.

Peak flu activity in the U.S. usually occurs around February.