Flu claims two lives in Flathead

Print Article

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2014 file photo, a sign telling customers that they can get a flu shot in a Walgreen store is seen in Indianapolis. Kids may get more of a sting from flu vaccination this fall: Doctors are gearing up to give shots only, because U.S. health officials say the easy-to-use nasal spray version of the vaccine isn't working as well as a jab. Needle-phobic adults still have some less painful options. But FluMist, with its squirt into each nostril, was the only ouch-free alternative for children, and has accounted for about a third of pediatric flu vaccinations in recent years. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Two Flathead County residents have died from the flu, marking the state’s first influenza-related deaths this season, the Flathead City-County Health Department reported Wednesday.

Both deceased residents were over the age of 65.

Last year, the flu claimed the lives of 56 Montanans, including seven who lived in Flathead County.

Flathead’s public health officer Hillary Hanson said her office was surprised to see fatalities at this point in the season, given that influenza rates have just begun to pick up. The county saw 15 cases last week, up from six since the start of the season.

“Each year is a little bit different so we don’t always know what we’re going to see and when we’re going to see it,” Hanson said. “It’s hard to tell this early in the season what our flu season is really going to look like.”

Influenza is a highly contagious virus that is spread by airborne droplets and contact with infected persons or contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include fever, chills, congestion, runny nose and fatigue. The virus usually clears up within the span of days to a couple weeks and can be partially prevented with an annual influenza vaccination.

The health department said the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the illness, and noted that it can take up to two weeks after receiving the shot for antibodies to develop and the vaccine to be effective. Vaccination is recommended for at-risk populations including people over the age of 65, children younger than 5 years old, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, along with pregnant women.

People may also reduce their risk of contracting or spreading the flu by covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands frequently and staying home when ill.

“It’s really hard when the flu season hits around the holidays because we have a tendency to want to spend time with families,” Hanson said, “and we really encourage people to think through if they’re feeling ill at all, who they’re going to be seeing …. and be cautious around those who may be particularly vulnerable to illnesses.”

Health experts are concerned about the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine, based on reports out of Australia, which uses a vaccine with the same composition of that used in the U.S. Australia has seen record-numbers of influenza outbreaks and above average hospitalizations and deaths this winter.

The New England Journal of Medicine found that the H3N2 strain of the virus was most prevalent in the southern hemisphere and preliminary estimates of the vaccine’s effectiveness against that strain were only 10 percent. When vaccines are well-matched to circulating strains, estimates of effectiveness range between 40 and 60 percent, according to the Journal.

The U.S. may also be in for a severe season, as the H3N2 strain has been a dominating presence in early reports. During the last week of November, the vast majority — 80 percent — of lab-confirmed influenza tests in the U.S. were H3N2 viruses, according to the Center for Disease Control. Nationwide since Oct. 1, 566 have been hospitalized for influenza and 148 million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed.

Reporter Mackenzie Reiss may be reached at 758-4433 or mreiss@dailyinterlake.com.

Print Article

Read More

Norman T. Bouchey, 83

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Norman T. Bouchey, 83, was born April 17, 1935, to Ernest and Helen Bouchey in Helena. He succumbed to leukemia Sept. 28, 2018. Norman was educated in Missoula and Helena and graduated high school ...


Read More

Rise and shine, or I’ll call the police

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake A parent called Kalispell Police when their 9-year-old child refused to get out of bed for school. Someone reported watching a teenaged boy scrape a parked vehicle with his car and drive off before ...


Read More

Final Wild and Scenic Rivers plan meeting is Wednesday

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Among designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in the United States, the three forks of the Flathead River offer especially remarkable wildness, scenery and recreational opportunities, according to the fede...


Read More

Changes considered for tricky junction

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Today, 18th Street’s layout between its crossing of Airport Road and 1st Avenue West resembles a dogleg. The road doesn’t shoot straight through from U.S. 93. That skewed configuration presents a d...


Read More

Contact Us

News: (406) 837-5131
Advertising: 406-758-4410
Bigfork Eagle
c/o Daily Inter Lake
PO Box 7610
Kalispell, MT 59904

©2018 Bigfork Eagle Terms of Use Privacy Policy