Defense wins the game, the saying goes, and that strategy also is the key to staying healthy during flu season.

The Man vs. Achoo contest is officially underway and is expected to plague us through May. So far, only a few cases of flu have been reported in Minnesota, said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease, epidemiology, prevention and control at the Minnesota Department of Health.

But with the wily virus capable of spreading quickly and striking hard — last year 10 children in Minnesota died — it’s never too early to start planning your defense.

But what’s a bug-weary warrior to do? Load up on vitamin C? Stuff your hands in your pockets to avoid shaking hands? Head south for the winter? Go in for the annual arm jab? We enlisted the help of Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, to tell us which things really help or hurt your odds of catching the flu.

Although last year’s flu shot turned out to be largely ineffective after the virus mutated, early reports show that this year’s vaccine packs a mighty punch against the strain that’s out there, public health officials say.

“We’re thinking and hoping that it will be a good match this year,” Ehresmann said. Getting the shot is still one of the best ways to stay flu-free, she said.

“It’s the most specific tool. I’ve used the analogy that if you’re a football team, getting a flu shot is like getting the other team’s playbook,” she said. “The other things are helpful, too — like strength training and conditioning. They’re just not as specific.”

In the meantime, take our admittedly unscientific quiz to determine your flu risk this season.