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Health officials say influenza is on the rise in southwest Montana

Southwest Montana Community Health Center
Posted at 2:04 PM, Jan 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-11 18:34:57-05

BUTTE — The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is reporting a rise in influenza and COVID-19 cases across the state. A report released this week shows Montana recorded its first pediatric influenza death of the 2023-2024 flu season in Big Horn County.

DPHHS also reports Gallatin County has some of the highest cases in the state for influenza with 486 cases reported in December, while counties in southwest Montana are all reporting cases of influenza.

Butte-Silver Bow County health officials say flu season typically begins in January and according to trends from state and local data, they are expecting to see cases increase in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases have remained steady in Silver Bow County.

"For COVID-19, we haven't seen spikes so much as steady, low levels throughout the year. Although we have not seen as many severe cases as there were with earlier variants of the virus, we do occasionally see hospitalization among high-risk people," says Amanda Marinovich, the epidemiologist for Butte-Silver Bow County's public health department.

Marinovich urges high-risk patients to seek treatment immediately when experiencing symptoms. She says antiviral treatments are most effective at the beginning of the illness.

It is still possible to get vaccinated for flu and COVID, and shots can be administered at the same time. Marinovich says vaccination helps protect yourself and others.

"The best way to protect people around you is to get your flu shot. We still have quite a bit of flu vaccine for children and adults whether they have insurance or not," she says.

Non-pharmaceutical tools like hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette, and even face coverings as well as staying home when you are sick help reduce the spread of flu and COVID.

"I think it's also important to remember the why—reducing spread helps prevent the hospitals and clinics from being overwhelmed so that they have beds and supplies and are able to continue running as normal," says Marinovich.

To learn more about how you can get vaccinated, you can call the Butte-Silver Bow County Health Department at 406-497-5020 for more information and to schedule an appointment.