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Red River Valley hit hard by flu virus

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GRAND FORKS, ND (WDAZ-TV) -- If you feel like everyone around you is sick, you could be right.

Flu season started early in our area this year, and a spike last week has brought the number of outbreaks in our area to an alarming level.

WDAZ's Scott Cook breaks down how bad it could be and how you can stay healthy.

There is no doubt about it.  

It's that time of year again.

"We are definitely seeing a peak in flu activity right now in many regions of the country," says Joel Walz, Altru Physician.

And here at home, it's no different.

"With people just kind of more indoors and closer together it gets easier to pick up the flu virus from cough and just being close," says Dr. Walz.

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, there has been over fourteen hundred lab-identified cases of the flu this year. And the numbers are probably higher, because not everyone who gets the flu goes to the hospital.

Some reports indicate that this year's flu vaccine isn't as effective as previous years. But doctors still suggest getting a flu shot.

"It is true that the vaccine doesn't seem to be as good of a match as a circulating strain, but it doesn't mean the flu shot won't provide you some benefit," says Dr. Walz.

Benefits like a shorter duration and less severe symptoms.

But still, the best way to beat the flu is to not get it at all. So experts want you to take precautions.

"Good hand washing, vaccine, stay home when you're sick, and cough into your sleeve," says Theresa Knox, Grand Forks Department of Public Health.

Some simple but important reminders so you can stay healthy, even with the worst of flu season still ahead.

"It's definitely not too late to get the flu shot," says Dr. Walz.

Medical experts say the peak of flu season typically doesn't fall until next month.