Flu Cases Top 800 in Flathead County

Montana has minimal flu activity compared to rest of the country, but Flathead County continues to lead state with most cases

By Molly Priddy
The Intermediate Care unit at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Beacon File Photo

The 2017-2018 flu season continues to roll through the state and country, with Flathead County showing the most cases of any county in the state.

Influenza is making the rounds throughout the state this winter, though Montana as a whole is largely escaping the bulk of the flu when compared to other states.

As of the week of Feb. 17, Flathead County had 121 new cases of influenza A and B, with 73 influenza A cases and 48 influenza B cases, according to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Lisa Dennison, infectious disease coordinator for the Flathead City-County Health Department, said 819 cases of influenza have been reported altogether, the most in any county in the state.

“And those are the just ones that were reported to us,” Dennison said. “The season definitely seems to be a heavier flu season.”

Montana remains one of three states least affected by the flu, the CDC stated, along with North Dakota and Maine. High flu activity remained in 39 states, as well as New York City, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Statewide, there were 5,854 reported cases of the flu, 622 hospitalizations, and 31 deaths as of Feb. 17, according to DPHHS. All of the flu deaths in Montana have been adults, with 27 adults older than 65 and four younger than 65. So far, there have been 21 flu outbreaks.

Nationwide, there were 21,179 confirmed flu-related hospitalizations between October and Feb. 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Feb. 17, 97 children nationwide died from the flu, and roughly 200,000 people were infected.

Dennison said most of the flu cases in Flathead County have been influenza A and B, which the vaccine covers. Even if someone gets a vaccine and still falls ill, the flu won’t likely be as powerful than if they hadn’t been vaccinated, she said.

“We definitely still recommend that people get vaccinated — it will still prevent illness — including thousands of hospitalizations and deaths,” Dennison said. “If you are sick, it’s important to stay home when you’re not feeling well. If you have the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever has gone away without fever-reducing medications.”

While many cases of flu do not require an emergency medical visit, some symptoms can develop that necessitate a visit to the emergency department (ER). Please view the below checklist to be aware of emergency warning signs of flu sickness.

When should you go the ER?

Infants:

  • Any symptoms listed below for children
  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

Children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

Adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

 

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