Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

It is common to see an increase of illness during the winter months, and this year is no exception. Cascade County is currently experiencing an increase of illness including pertussis (whooping cough) and Shigella (diarrheal illness). The holiday season offers a break from school and some of the organized activities, but Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) and the Cascade City-County Health Department (CCHD) are asking residents to remain vigilant in order to stop the spread of these and other illnesses.

“Germs don’t take a break just because schools do,” says Superintendent Tammy Lacey. “Hand-washing, cough covering, and avoiding public places if feeling ill are among the important things we can do to stay healthy every day. With families, community members, and the school district all working together, we can lessen the impact of illness on Great Falls.

Although pertussis is a respiratory illness and Shigella is an illness that usually causes diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps, similar steps can prevent both illnesses. Steps to stay healthy include:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water; you may also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water is not readily available.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes correctly.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces and objects, like telephones and doorknobs. This is especially important after an episode of illness. Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces and remove and wash any clothing or linens that may be contaminated after an episode of illness.
  • Don’t prepare food if you are sick.
  • Sick individuals should stay home and avoid close contact with others.

One additional weapon available against illnesses like pertussis is vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination is the best way to prevent pertussis.

“We are committed to helping ensure the continued health of our residents, and are working hard to track down anyone who could have been exposed to illness so that they can be tested and treated, as appropriate,” says Tanya Houston, Health Officer for CCHD. She goes on to add, “We are grateful for the continued help and support of our partners and the community as we all work together to stop the spread of these illnesses.”