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First Montana flu death of the season reported

Posted at 9:13 AM, Dec 01, 2022

BILLINGS - RiverStone Health, in conjunction with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), announced Thursday that it has confirmed the first death of the 2022-2023 influenza season in Montana.

According to a press release, an elderly, unvaccinated Yellowstone County male resident died at a Billings hospital over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Montana reported its first flu case at the end of September and influenza activity in Montana has been increasing in recent weeks, the press release states.

RiverStone Health records show that as of Nov. 30 there have been 474 reported cases, 29 hospitalizations and one death in Yellowstone County due to the flu. 

Because DPHHS reports flu cases for the state of Montana and there is a lag time in reporting, as of Nov. 19 DPHHS reported 957 cases and 27 hospitalizations due to the flu. 

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 6.2 million illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations, and 2,900 deaths from flu.

"It is still early in the flu season and the CDC continues to recommend getting a flu vaccine because it is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza and its potentially serious complications," RiverStone Health officials said in the press release. "Flu vaccines are available through the RiverStone Health Immunization Clinic, the RiverStone Health Clinic and other medical offices and pharmacies in the community. Call 406.247.3382 to schedule an appointment with the Immunization Clinic or 406.247.3350 to schedule an appointment with the RiverStone Health Clinic for a flu shot."

The flu spreads through coughing and sneezing with symptoms that can include high fever, chills, headaches, exhaustion, sore throat, cough and body aches. It may take about 1 to 4 days after being exposed to the virus for symptoms to develop.

Additionally, you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.

Everyday precautions can help stop the spread of influenza. Those measures include:

  • Getting vaccinated against influenza.
  • Wearing a mask or covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people.
  • Staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or necessities.