Flu Watch 2013-14: Montana

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    Looks like the H1N1 Flu strain from 2009 is returning with an impact, this year. NOW would be the time to review your flu prep supplies (including cough/cold/flu meds and sick room supplies, arranging alternate child care, in case YOU get sick or consider having a flu buddy that can step in and help with keeping the family routine going.)

    hat Tip to “Pixie” over at Pandemic Flu Information:

    Influenza cases begin to mount in Yellowstone County

    3 hours ago • By Cindy Uken

    As of Monday, 10 Yellowstone County residents have been hospitalized with influenza, which is more than twice the number of people hospitalized in December last year.

    And, the numbers are expected to grow, according to officials at RiverStone Health, the county’s public health agency.

    Of those hospitalized, six were under age 40; most had not been immunized.

    During the 2012-03 flu season, at least 54 Yellowstone County residents were hospitalized; four of them in December.

    The 10 people hospitalized were among the 122 cases of influenza that RiverStone Health has recorded since documenting its first case of flu in early November. The number of actual cases could be even higher. For every case reported, there are three to five that go unreported, partly because many people do not consider themselves ill enough to seek medical attention, according to public health officials.

    “We’re particularly concerned because a large number of the reported cases are in children under age 18,” said Tamalee St. James, director of RiverStone’s Community Health Services.

    Statewide, 17 Montana counties are reporting influenza cases. As of Dec. 21, there were 26 hospitalizations from six counties: Cascade, Flathead, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Roosevelt and Yellowstone. Last year, there were 57 people hospitalized due to influenza in Montana.

    This is the first year that local county health departments have been required to report hospitalizations. In the past, the reporting had been voluntary.

    To date, no influenza-related deaths have been reported.

    Those most affected statewide by the hospitalizations continue to be very young and very old — 0 to 4 years old, or age 65 and over.

    Montana’s overall statewide influenza activity is about normal, according to officials from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. However, that can change quickly, as noted by the surge in hospitalizations just last week.

    To date, H1N1 has been the predominant virus in circulation. The 2013-14 influenza vaccine is designed to protect against the H1N1 and it’s not too late to receive a vaccination, St. James said. The season usually peaks midwinter and lasts until May.

    “Everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated annually, especially people with underlying health conditions,” she said.

    During the 2012-13 flu season, the deaths of 15 Montanans were directly attributed to influenza. Thirteen of the dead were age 65 or older. In addition, 361 people in the state were hospitalized, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

    There were 10,586 laboratory-confirmed and suspected cases in the state during the 2012-13 season, according to DPHHS. At least 818 of those cases were in Yellowstone County, about seven times the number reported during the 2011-2012 flu season.

    The flu usually comes on suddenly and may include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches.

    Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea also can occur but these are more common in children than adults.

    Visitor restrictions are not currently in place at local healthcare facilities, although United Health Command member organizations, RiverStone Health, St. Vincent Healthcare and Billings Clinic, are monitoring the situation.

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