The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Karen Wandel
RN Jefferson County Health Department 

Widespread flu activity reported


February 7, 2018

According to Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS), Montana closed January with widespread influenza activity. The number of Montanans reported to be infected with “the flu” increased over the past several weeks, with a high of 723 new cases last week. Since the start of the flu season in October, over 3,290 people have tested positive for influenza, 423 have been hospitalized, and 21 adults 50 years and over have died.

Locally, flu activity continues to be reported in all 3 regions of Jefferson County for a total of 55 cases so far. Seven hospitalizations and one death have also been reported. Nationwide, approximately sixty (60) percent of those hospitalized are 65 years or older; in Jefferson County 100% have been in this age group.

Flu vaccine still has a place this late in the season. A flu shot takes about 2 weeks to become fully effective, and each shot contains either 3 or 4 strains of killed flu virus. Right now the “H3-type” influenza A is the most prevalent nationwide and in Montana and both types of vaccine contain this strain. However 23% of the flu tests were influenza B last week, matching the results at clinical labs across the nation. The 4-strain (quadravalent) flu vaccine contains the most prevalent influenza B strain now circulating (Yamagata). Unfortunately the trivalent (3-strain) vaccines do not contain this flu strain. Those who received the 3 strain vaccine may wish to talk with their healthcare providers about additional measures to protect from severe flu.

While a flu vaccination is often said to be our best defense against the highly contagious illness, additional measures may help protect us from severe flu and slow the spread during the season.

• Wash our hands; it’s a basic hygiene measure that is protective to you and others.

• Cover our coughs and sneezes; if we don’t, we can propel those illness-causing bugs several feet away.

• Stay home when ill; this allows the body to rest and heal, and limits contact with others in the process. If neighbors offer to run errands for you, let them.

• Seek medical attention promptly; this may help avoid hospitalization and limit complications such as pneumonia.

• Finally, exercise, get adequate sleep and fluids, and eat well; all of these have been shown to positively impact our immune system and our ability to fight and recover from illness.

Certain people are at higher risk for severe complications of the flu. These include children younger than 5 years, especially those with asthma; people 65 years and older; pregnant women; adults with chronic medical conditions such as heart and metabolic disease, chronic lung disease and asthma, and a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30 (obesity).

If you have a high risk condition and experience flu symptoms, seek medical attention promptly. There are effective medications to treat the flu, but they work best when started within the first few days of illness. Even if you have no high risk condition, the flu can hit anyone hard. Nationwide 30% of adults and nearly 50% of children hospitalized with flu have had no known medical condition.

Please take it seriously if you feel you or someone in your care has the flu. Consult with your healthcare provider if you are concerned.

Immunizations may be scheduled at Boulder, Clancy or Whitehall offices by calling the Jefferson County Health Department @ 225-4007 or from the south 287-3249.


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