Increasing Number of Flu Cases in Cascade County

The 2012-2013 flu season started earlier than in recent years. The number of cases has been steadily climbing each week, and there is a dramatically higher incidence of flu than what was being seen last year at this time. In fact, during the last week of Decemberr, there were 57 reported cases of influenza in Cascade County compared to just one case during a similar time period last year. The City-County Health Department (CCHD) reminds residents to get their flu shots to protect themselves and their loved ones from influenza.

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness with symptoms that may include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Influenza can be a severe respiratory illness that lasts for a week to two weeks and can cause serious complications, even death.

Although flu season started earlier than previous years and there seems to be more cases, the good news is there are no reported deaths associated with influenza so far this year in Cascade County. The other bit of good news is that there are ways to prevent the flu. “A flu shot is the best protection against the flu, and it isn’t too late,” states Jill Boettcher, CCHD Public Health Nurse. “Please take this important step to protect yourself and those around you from this potentially life threatening illness.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends flu shots for everyone 6 months of age and older.

The flu virus is contagious and spreads from person to person through droplets when sneezing or coughing. It can also be spread when a person touches an object that has the virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes. That is why it is essential that people practice good healthy habits, like washing their hands, covering their coughs and sneezes and staying home when sick.

Most people who get the flu recover within a week to two weeks, although complications such as bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic health conditions can arise. These complications can result in hospitalization and, in severe cases, death. The CDC reports that in the United States “flu-associated deaths range from a low of about 3,000 people to a high of about 49,000 people each year.”

Flu shots are available at the City-County Health Department every Tuesday from 8:00-11:30am and Wednesday through Friday from 8:30-11:30am and 1-4:30pm. No appointment is necessary. Shots cost $21 for children and $32 for adults. Medicare, Medicaid and Healthy Montana Kids are accepted along with cash, checks, credit cards and other insurances.

For more information on influenza and immunizations, visit CCHD’s Prevention Services page.