HELENA- The Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPPHS) is reporting increased influenza activity across Montana with nearly 200 new cases and 40 hospitalizations emerging over the past two weeks.
DPHHS says cases of the flu are slightly higher then they were at this time in 2016. That increase has prompted the health department to encourage people to take precautions to protect themselves as they travel over the Christmas holiday.
Health experts say the best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated.
The first cases of the flu for the 2017-2018 season appeared in September, slightly earlier than the typical Oct. 1 start of the season. To date, three people have died from the flu -- including two in Flathead County -- and 66 people have been hospitalized.
The 2016-2017 Montana flu season saw 56 deaths and more than 800 hospitalizations.
“The influenza vaccine protects against multiple strains of flu,” said Stacey Anderson of the DPHHS Communicable Disease Epidemiology section. “Even if the vaccine may not prevent every case of influenza, the evidence shows that getting a flu shot still can prevent severe illness and hospitalization. The vaccine also provides protection against other strains that circulate during the season.”
Anderson also states that getting the vaccine not only helps the individual, but can help keep others healthy as well. “Everyone is at risk for complications of the flu,” she said. “It’s not too late to get vaccinated, and the vaccine will help not only you, but protect those around you as well.”
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, public health officials recommend the following, especially during the holiday travel season:
For more tips on preventing the spread of the flu goes to the DPHHS website.