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The Ohio Department of Health continues to alert the public about the importance of flu vaccination as flu-associated hospitalizations continue to increase across the state as kids head back to school from winter break.

These higher-risk patients will have priority in Cottage Hospitals emergency departments, the hospital said.

Nurse Lisa Maynard said they've had one confirmed flu hospitalization there, but they've seen a 29 percent increase in flu like cases in the past few months in Bryan County.

Flu activity in the USA usually peaks around February.

The CDC said that across the nation, about 5 percent of patients saw their doctors for flu-like symptoms in the week ending December 23, compared with 2.2 percent of patients doing so during the same week in 2016.

We are learning emergency rooms across the Tri-State are overrun by cases of the flu.

The Tennessee Department of Health is offering free flu vaccines at all county health departments in the state while supplies last.

Sharp said flu vaccines are offered through healthcare providers, county health departments, outpatient clinics and many pharmacies.

Locally in OH, there were no reports of any influenza-associated hospitalizations in Adams County, while there were two hospitalizations reported in Brown County on the last week of the year. People 65 and older accounted for most of the recent admissions - 81 of 130.

Paul Twomey, medical director for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: "It's not too late to get your flu vaccination".

Experts say the flu season may be more severe this year with the dominant strain being H3N2.

"The vaccine is the best protection there is against flu", he added.

People in certain categories are "strongly" encouraged to get the flu vaccine due to their high risk for flu-related complications or exposure to others.

Other precautions include washing hands often with soap and water; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and avoiding contact with sick people. People not staying home when they need to the most.