(RiverStone Health news release)
BILLINGS – Influenza continues to hit Yellowstone County hard and early. So far this season, at least 1,111 flu cases have been confirmed in county residents. Fifty-eight people have been hospitalized and two have died.
The most recently reported death occurred on Dec. 14. A woman in her 80s died at a Billings hospital after contracting both influenza and COVID-19. She was not up to date on COVID-19 boosters, but had received a flu vaccination. She is the first Yellowstone County resident whose cause of death was related to both COVID-19 and the flu.
At least five other Montanans’ deaths this fall were related to the flu, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The majority of Montanans hospitalized with flu recently have been adults, especially those over age 65. But several children, including a few less than four years old, have been hospitalized with the flu.
Flu cases and hospitalizations are much higher than historically seen before January, according to Montana data. Influenza A is currently the dominant influenza type circulating in Montana, including both H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes.
COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory illnesses are circulating in Yellowstone County and elsewhere in Montana.
Although no vaccine is 100% effective, immunizations are the safest, scientifically proven protection against serious illness and death from flu and from COVID-19. Vaccines against both diseases are recommended for children as young as six months and everyone older. There is no vaccine available for RSV, which can be a severe illness in babies.
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are available at many local pharmacies and clinics, including RiverStone Health Immunization Clinic. Call 406.247.3382 for an appointment.
Good hygiene reduces your risk of being infected with and spreading respiratory viruses: frequent, thorough handwashing, covering your cough and sneeze and staying home when ill. People who are at high risk for serious respiratory illness may consider additional precautions, such as wearing a facemask in public and avoiding crowds.