An early start to the flu season in Minnesota has officials concerned. So far this season, more than 600 people have been hospitalized for influenza, compared to 552 for all of last year’s flu season. The State Health Department’s Kris Ehresmann says that there are simple steps you can take to help prevent the spread of the flu, such as good hand washing, getting plenty of rest, eating well — and she says people should cover their cough and stay home when they’re sick. South-central Minnesota is reportedly getting hit the hardest by the flu virus in the state, and several area hospitals have imposed restrictions on visitors in an effort to limit exposure to patients and staff. Hospitals with some type of visitor restrictions currently in place include in New Ulm, Sleepy Eye, Madelia and Redwood Falls. Some area nursing homes have also imposed restrictions on visitors due to the flu outbreak.