Influenza makes presence known in Central Montana

How are you feeling? That seems to be the question around the country this year, as 1 of every 13 visits to the doctor this month was for fever, cough or another symptom of the flu, according to a government report.

Central Montana Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Karin White said Fergus County is not immune to this outbreak.

“We’ve had 48 cases of influenza at CMMC,” said White. “In all, Fergus County has seen 63 cases. It seems to be on a bit of a decline now. We’re hoping it has reached its peak.”

White said these are numbers recorded by the Department of Health and Human Services and cover the flu season from September of 2017 until Feb. 3 of 2018. According to DPHHS, there have been 4,269 cases and 487 hospitalizations in the state, which puts in perspective Central Montana’s 63 cases.

“This number isn’t as high as some previous flu seasons,” she said.

Influenza is making the news, but White said CMMC is seeing other respiratory illnesses, as well.

“There are a lot of viruses and colds going around,” White said. “Some are the flu and some are different. The flu tends to come on quicker than a cold. Symptoms include fever, headaches, weakness, chills, body aches, sneezes, coughs and a sore throat.

In 2018, 10 to 20 percent of the people coming to the ER have respiratory-type illnesses, White said, which may or may not be influenza.

It’s been a dangerous year for influenza. According to DPHHS, 24 people in Montana have died from the flu this season. None of the deaths occurred in Central Montana.

Nevertheless, White said this is a powerful strain of influenza that has certainly taken people of the community by surprise.

“This flu comes on quicker than a cold, and it hits certain people harder than others,” White said. “Young children and older adults are more susceptible. We’ve also seen a lot more different kinds of flu this year, and younger children don’t have the immunity built up like older folks. Also, some of the older adults may not have received vaccinations for years.” White said Tamiflu has done a good job treating the flu, as have other antibiotics. Although numbers vary regarding the effectiveness of the flu shot, White said it’s helped CMMC staff stay healthy, which goes a long way. “Here at CMMC, 99 percent of our employees have been vaccinated and we attribute that to not seeing as many employees absent from work,” she said. “We’ve had some flu, but not to the degree others have had it.”

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