MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This is the time of year we hear about people getting the flu, but more people than usual have already gotten sick.

So far, the number of people hospitalized is more than during all of last season. The flu popped up earlier than normal as the first case showed up in Minnesota in October. Sometimes doesn’t show up until around Thanksgiving.

So far 600 people have been so sick with the flu they’ve had to be hospitalized. The flu is now considered widespread.

This year is standing out in part because the last two years were so mild. Experts believe that’s because of that fewer people got vaccinated. At least three people have died in Minnesota because of the flu this season.

Max Schwolert, 17 of Texas, was visiting relatives near Amery, Wis., when he got sick on Christmas Day.  The next day he was airlifted to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he died a few days later.

His CaringBridge website says after the flu, Schwolert got pneumonia and then a staph infection.

“He was just a wonderful, lively, funny, athletic and healthy child, and it just goes to show that it can really happen to anyone and you have to take it seriously,” said Michelle Schwolert, Max’s uncle.

The teenager had not gotten a flu shot. Now his relatives are urging others to get one. Officials with the Minnesota Department of Health say the vaccine will prevent the flu 60 percent of the time.

We are only in week three of what is usually a 16-week flu season. It usually takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.


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