ST. PAUL  (AP) - The Minnesota Department of Health says this flu season is the mildest the state has seen in recent years.

New health department data shows 52 people have been hospitalized with lab-confirmed influenza since fall, and three people have died.   At this time last year, hospitalizations were more than double that number, and there were nine deaths.

Some say the mild winter might be a factor, but health officials say there's more to it.

Kris Ehresmann with the health department says the flu virus is unpredictable and health officials don't know what to expect each year.

She says increased flu activity is associated with low humidity. Also, if people are spending less time congregated indoors, the virus might not spread as easily.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved)