RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Since the start of the flu season this year, Monument Health has seen a 54 percent increase in influenza hospitalization with 37 flu patients being hospitalized already.

According to a press release sent on Thursday, during the 2019-20 flu season Monument Health saw only 17 hospitalizations in the same time period.

The 2019-20 flu season went on to become one of the worst flu seasons in South Dakota’s recent history with 14,776 confirmed cases, 547 hospitalizations and 33 deaths in the state reported by the South Dakota Department of Health between October 2019 through May 2020.

With the increased number of cases already this flu season, experts are predicting this year will see even more cases.

“It could be that the flu season is peaking early this year, but there’s a strong chance we’re seeing the start of a big increase in cases,” said Ty White, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Monument Health.

The annual flu shot offers protection against four of the influenza variants and according to a recent Mayo Clinic article, it is not too late to get your flu shot.

“Getting an influenza vaccine — though not 100% effective — is the best way to prevent the misery of the flu and its complications,” the Mayo Clinic article noted.