By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Health officials say a 2-year-old Cottage Grove girl is the first person to die from the flu this season.

She passed away last Thursday at Children’s Minnesota.

State health officials say the high number of hospitalizations so far this season is alarming, and the concern is that flu cases can last until May.

“It’s exhausting, it’s very exhausting,” said mom Lauren Edwards. “It comes and it goes. You just make the best of what you can do inside.”

Even with flu shots last winter, Edwards said influenza made the rounds at her Eagan home.

With a 5-year-old son, and another baby on the way, she and her family have an extra incentive to wash their hands frequently, and avoid germs.

“I work in a clinic so I see a lot of what comes in and out of the community by myself,” Edwards said. “I’ve been staying pretty healthy and trying to keep a little guy healthy, too.”

gettyimages 2806690 How You Can Protect Yourself, And Others, From The Flu

(Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)

The most common flu strain circulating so far this season is Influenza A, which has been responsible for deaths in children and older adults around the country.

The Minnesota Department of Health says there have been nearly 1,800 flu-related hospitalizations so far this season.

“It’s certainly a steep number,” said state epidemiologist Karen Martin. “What’s concerning is those numbers have gone up so quickly. It looks like it’s going to be a relatively severe season this year.”

With the spike in flu cases, Martin would like to see more people get vaccinated. By late November, only 39 percent of people 6 months and older had received their flu vaccine.

“You might think, ‘Well, I’m pretty healthy, I don’t really need the protection.’ The truth is if you don’t get sick, you can prevent other people who may not be as lucky from getting ill,” she said.

Martin said people who get a flu shot are 30-percent less likely to get influenza, compared to those that do not get a shot.

And even if you get the flu after a flu shot, she believes you won’t get as sick.

Hand washing, covering your cough and just staying home if you are ill are all good tips as well.

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