BILLINGS - After a year’s absence, the flu is back.
RiverStone Health reported Tuesday the first Yellowstone County influenza cases were confirmed this week.
Cases of influenza A have been confirmed in a woman in her 40s and in a young child, the health agency said in a press release. They are not related and neither one has been hospitalized.
Last fall and winter, Montana registered zero lab-confirmed cases of flu and few cases were reported nationwide. At that time, there were restrictions on public gatherings and building occupancy as well as widespread masking requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – measures that also prevented the spread of the flu. Now Yellowstone County has no mandatory pandemic mitigations measures in place, the press release statas.
Statewide, 48 flu cases have been reported since October, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
“The lab confirmation of two flu cases is a signal that everyone in our community needs to take precautions,” said John Felton, Yellowstone County health officer and CEO and president of RiverStone Health. “If you haven’t received your annual flu vaccination yet, I strongly encourage you to get vaccinated now. Shots are recommended for everyone age six months and older.”
“Influenza can result in serious illness, hospitalization and death,” Felton said. “More often, people who get the flu recover at home after suffering respiratory symptoms for several days. A flu vaccine can keep you from getting sick, missing work or missing school.”
“With critically ill COVID-19 patients continuing to need care at Billings hospitals, it’s especially important to prevent cases of flu from further increasing demand on our hospital staff. Influenza and COVID-19 can infect a person at the same time, so it is important to protect ourselves against both viruses.”
Flu vaccines are available from local medical clinics and pharmacies.
You may schedule a flu vaccination appointment at RiverStone Health Immunization Clinic, 123 S. 27th St. in the four-story building by calling 406-247-3382. Medicare and private insurance will be billed so there is no out-of-pocket cost to those getting vaccinated. Children 18 and younger who don’t have insurance coverage can receive the vaccine at no charge through the Vaccines for Children program.