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Get a flu shot now, public health officials say

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With the Centers for Disease Control predicting that flu season will peak in February, physicians and public health officials are urging Minnesotans to make sure they are immunized against the illness, which is spiking in the number of reported cases.

WCCO reported a rush of people getting flu shots this weekend as the winter weather became far less forbidding. The station's story noted that doctors said the extreme cold snap may have had something to do with a sharp uptick in cases, as the bitter temperatures kept people indoors. The AccuWeather website notes that some studies have suggest seasonal influenza influenza viruses circulate at higher levels in cold weather and at lower levels in warm weather.

“One of the things that contributes is everyone is home from break with the holidays and that’s a lot of people in a small space,” said Dr. Laura Schrag at North Memorial Medical Center.

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health recorded 144 flu-related hospitalizations across the state, compared to 118 the week before. There have so far been 19 school outbreaks. The New York Daily News reported that Minnesota is one of 35 states that are currently battling widespread flu activity. That number is up from 25 last week, with some of the most recent deaths including the young and the healthy.

Patch notes that it's not too late to get immunized against the flu. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older. Children under age nine may need to return for a second dose of immunization.

The CDC encourages students and adults to stay home from school or work if they develop influenza-like illness. Symptoms include dehydration, an ongoing fever that won’t go down, dizziness or fainting. Doctors say resting at home and drinking plenty of fluids is best for recovery, although people with other health complications may need to see their physician.

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