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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As Hoosier students prepare to return to the classroom after the winter break, health officials are preparing for an uptick of flu-related illnesses for those age groups.

“We do tend to see an increase the following week after kids go back to school, because you have more kids that are interacting with other children and taking back all the different diseases that they’ve got from their festivities,” Indiana State Health Department Outreach Coordinator Shawn Richards said.

Indiana is already one of 36 states that is experiencing widespread flu activity. The week before Christmas alone, seven Hoosiers died from the flu.

“The flu is very wide spread right now,” Richards said.

Richards added the best ways to protect yourself against the flu are to get a flu shot and wash your hands with soap and water.

“Hand washing with soap and water is always best,” she said.

Richards added if you or a family member of yours is sick, it’s best to stay home from work or school to prevent the spread of influenza.