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Battling a bug: North Dakota and Minnesota see spike in flu cases

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FARGO - Minnesota and North Dakota have seen a drastic spike in flu cases in a very short time. Minnesota is reporting a 33 percent increase in flu hospitalizations, while North Dakota flu cases have nearly tripled since the new year.

Everyone knows someone battling a bug right now.

"People are having coughing attacks and stuff" explains MSUM freshman Juron Griffin, listing some off the top of his head. "My friend Ben, a couple family members."

"My parents were sick," adds his friend Holly O'Hotto.

O'Hotto, also a college student, is fighting flu symptoms herself.

"I was really congested and felt super run-down. Everyone's always sick out there," she says.

O'Hotto isn't alone. Between late December and now, North Dakota has gone from fewer than 30 confirmed cases to nearly 75.

Minnesota has seen a 33 percent increase in hospitalizations.

Public health experts aren't surprised.

"It's not that uncommon to see an increase of cases this time of year," explains Kylie Hall, project manager for NDSU's Center for Immunization Research and Education.

But most can't explain exactly why.

"I don't know if anybody has a for-sure answer," Hall adds.

Holiday travel may be to blame in part.

"People see people from all over," Hall explains. "(They) just come into contact with more people so we're more likely to be exposed to different strains."

Regardless, there are easy ways to fight spread; like avoiding certain interactions:

"Handshakes... and make sure you clean your cellphone off, (it's) something you touch regularly," Hall says.

Flu season isn't going away overnight. But with good hygeine, experts say you can keep yourself form getting sidelined with sickness.

Experts say it's not too late to get a flu shot, though it does take a few weeks to take effect.

They also say while hand sanitizer is helpful, regular handwashing is the best way to fight the flu.