ST. CLOUD - The flu bug has hit central Minnesota.

CentraCare's Karen Witzman is the Director of Employee Health Services.  She says they're seeing more patients with influenza, as well as an increase in the number of staff calling in sick.

Witzman says this is an early start to the flu season.

Witzman says the best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated.

St. Katharine Drexel school in St. Cloud closed its doors today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday), due to the large number of kids out sick with the flu.

A lot of area moms and dads have been making a trip to the doctor's office lately.  Dr. Kathy Kulus is a Pediatrician with CentraCare.  She says her office has been busy seeing patients with influenza.

Kulus says the most typical symptoms she's seeing are a fever between 101 and 104, and upper respiratory problems.  She says if you, or your child, get influenza there are a few things you can do; push fluids, use ibuprofen for pain and fever control, and get lots of rest.

Kulus says it usually takes three to seven days to recover.  She says, as families gather over the holidays, there's the potential for the virus to spread.

Witzman says typical symptoms of influenza include: fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

Meanwhile, Minnesota has reported its first flu-related death of the season.

A Minnesota Department of Health spokesman says the victim was a man in his 60s who had underlying health problems.

The Health Department reports 47 schools reported flu outbreaks in the week ending Dec. 15. That's nearly four times the number of schools the week before.

At the same time, the number of patients hospitalized with influenza more than doubled, from 30 to 65.

The number of nursing homes or long-term care facilities reporting outbreaks also doubled, from three to six last week.

Since October, 165 people in Minnesota have been hospitalized with confirmed cases of influenza.

If you are sick, she reminds you to wash your hands frequently, and cover your mouth with your arm - not your hand - when you cough.