HELENA- The Montana Department of Health and Human Services reports increased influenza activity across Montana.

According to a news release, there have been nearly 200 new cases and 40 hospitalizations over the past two weeks.

DPHHS says cases of the flu are slightly higher then they were at this time in 2016.

The increase has prompted DPHHS to encourage people to take precautions to protect themselves as they travel over the Christmas holiday.

Story continues below

Health experts say the best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated.

The first cases of the flu for the 2017-2018 season appeared in September, slightly earlier than the typical Oct. 1 start of the season. To date three people, have died from the flu, 66 people have been hospitalized.

The 2016-2017 Montana flu season saw 56 deaths and more than 800 hospitalizations.

For more tips on preventing the spread of the flu goes to the DPHHS website.