Influenza cases increasing, vaccines encouraged

Influenza activity is widespread in Montana with half of the counties reporting confirmed cases, state public health officials said today. Influenza-related hospitalizations across the state have also increased. As of Tuesday, January 4, there have been 101 hospitalizations reported this season, with over half in the last two weeks. Further, one death from complications of influenza was reported last week in a Hi l l County r e s ident . DPHHS influenza surveillance for the 2013-14 season officially began on October 1, 2013. “It is important that all individuals older than six months get vaccinated to protect themselves and others,” said Carbon County Public Health Nurse, Roberta Cady. “Carbon County Public Health and Beartooth Billings Clinic still have vaccine available and getting vaccinated is the single most important thing you can do to prevent influenza and its complications. It is definitely not too late to get a flu shot.” The virus responsible for cases this year is the same H1N1 strain that circulated during the 2009 season. The current vaccine includes protection against H1N1 as well as other types of influenza expected to circulate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received a number of reports of severe illness among young and middle-aged adults and strongly encourages those in these age groups to be vaccinated. As Montana enters the most active part of the influenza season, public health officials are offering the following advice to keep yourself and your family healthy: • G e t v a c c i n a t e d . Protect yourself and others by getting vaccinated now. • If you are ill, stay home from work or school. CDC recommends that you or your child stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm if you have no other choice. • W a s h i n g y o u r hands often will help protect you from viruses like influenza. Soap and water should be your first choice, but if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol- based hand rub. • Av o i d t o u c h i n g your eyes, nose or mouth. Viruses are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with viruses and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. • If you get sick, ask your healthcare provider if antiviral drugs are right for you. They can prevent serious flu complications like pneumonia. For people with a high risk medical condition, treatment with an ant ivi ral drug can me a n t h e d i f f e r e n c e between having milder illness instead of very serious i l lness that coul d result in a hospital stay. For more information regarding vaccination and the impact of influenza during the 2013/2014 seas on, pl eas e v i s i t the DPHHS website for influenza data, vaccine and prevention information at www.dphhs.mt.gov. To receive a flu shot, stop by or call Carbon County Public Health at 206 N. Broadway, 446.9941 or Beartooth Billings Clinic 2525 N. Broadway, 446- 2345 to get your flu shot.