The influenza season in Minnesota has been mild so far, but numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health show that confirmed cases are beginning to multiply and influenza is widespread throughout the state. In addition, Tri-County Health Care has seen confirmed cases of influenza and increased activity.

Even though this influenza activity is considered moderate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly influenza surveillance shows that the East Coast and southern states are seeing extremely high influenza activity. Influenza typically hits coastal states before moving inward, meaning those high numbers could eventually reach Minnesota.

Now is a good time to consider getting the influenza vaccine if you have not already done so. It's not too late for it to be effective. Remember, however, that the vaccine can take up to two weeks to build up in your immune system, so it is possible to contract influenza in that time. But if you do contract influenza, having the vaccine will help to lessen symptoms and the risk of complications.

Influenza is extremely contagious and is spread through droplets when people talk, sneeze or cough. Typical symptoms last about one week and include high fever, headache, muscle aches, dry cough, sore throat and fatigue. Most people will experience weakness and fatigue for another one to two weeks after the illness has subsided.

Those most at risk for serious complications from influenza are those age 65 or older, children - especially those younger than 6 months who cannot be vaccinated - pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. These individuals are especially encouraged to get the influenza vaccine. Along with the vaccine, proper hand washing is crucial for helping to prevent the spread of the virus.

Check with your local pharmacies or health care facilities to find out where you can receive the influenza vaccine. For more information about influenza, including hand-washing techniques or when you should seek medical attention for influenza-like symptoms, visit cdc.gov or health.state.mn.us.