As the first loss of life to influenza this season arrived this week, the State Department of Health looks to encourage everyone to be on guard against the disease.  

A Hutchinson County resident in the 80-89 age group is South Dakota’s first influenza death of the 2014-2015 season.  As is the case with all patient related information, no other details will be given.

Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the department noted that flu activity in South Dakota increased to widespread in the last week. To date the state has reported 144 lab-confirmed cases of flu and 48 flu-related hospitalizations.

As a precaution, people over 50, pregnant women, those with chronic medical conditions, health-care workers and household contacts of high risk populations, especially those with young infants in the household are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated.

DPS says you should also prevent the spread of the flu by washing your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand gel; cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze; don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth; and stay home if you're sick.