Southern Minnesota has seen a noticeable increase in the number of flu cases and flu–related hospitalizations in the last few weeks.

The contagious respiratory illness is caused by the influenza virus.  It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times even lead to death.  Public officials are asking citizens to take extra precaution if they are not feeling well.

"If you are sick with influenza type illness meaning a fever a cough stay home if you're sick and don't go to school, don't go to work.  Please don't send your children to daycare or to school if we all stay home we will all feel better, get better quicker and we will prevent someone else from contracting the flu," Nicollet County Public Health Coordinator Karen Swenson said.

The best form of flu prevention is washing your hands regularly and of course, the flu shot.

"It's not too late to get your flu shot. That's a great form of prevention and the flu shots are very important for people at high–risk, people 65 and older, people with asthma, diabetes, chronic illness, and children," Nicollet County Public Health Nurse Jody Fischenich said.

If you want a better chance at keeping the flu out of your home, officials are urging you and your family to create some new habits.

"Stay in the habit of getting a flu shot and then stay home and keep your kids home if you're sick," Swenson added.

--KEYC News 12