HIBBING — Flu activity is increasing in the state and the flu season can last through April, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Nationally, less than half of the population has received a flu vaccine.

National flu season vaccination rates released in November by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that only 40 percent of people ages 6 months and older had received their flu vaccine.

Kris Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Division at the Minnesota Department of Health, urges all to get their flu vaccine.

“The more people who are vaccinated, the more protection we’ll have in the community to slow or stop the spread, especially to those at high risk for complications from flu,” said Ehresmann in a release.

The MDH reports that the main flu strain circulating this season is influenza A (H3N2). Older adults, those who are 65 and older, are affected more often when H3N2 is the dominant strain.

Although people in this age group may feel young and healthy, the MDH explained that their immune systems have aged and have a harder time fighting off the flu.

The symptoms of flu, which tend to come on suddenly, can include a sore throat, coughing, fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. The MDH recommends that people who become severely ill with flu-like symptoms should seek medical care.

Flu can be a serious, life-threatening illness, even for otherwise healthy people.

“The flu is a very contagious, respiratory illness that can lead to bacterial pneumonia, ear and sinus infections as well as dehydration which often causes hospitalizations,” said Brooke Harle, a nurse practitioner with Essentia Health in Hibbing. “We recommend yearly vaccines for anyone over six months, and it is not too late to get your flu shot for this season.”

Although people may not like to get the vaccine, it is far better than suffering through a long bout of the flu.

“We know people may be disappointed that they have to get a shot, but the shot is the recommended option this year,” said Ehresmann in a release. “The small poke is far better than being sick with flu and missing days or weeks of school, work or other activities.”

As for the idea that the vaccine can make you sick, Harle says that is a common misunderstanding.

“The flu shot cannot make you sick, that is a misconception that many people have,” she said.

In the Hibbing area, flu shots are available at your local provider, as well as Walgreens, Thrifty White and Wal-Mart.

According to the MDH, flu vaccines are covered by most insurance plans as a requirement of the Affordable Care Act.

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