Flu season is well underway and as a result, some healthcare facilities in Northwest Montana are restricting visiting hours.
Kalispell Regional Healthcare announced Tuesday that children under age 13 won’t be allowed to visit Kalispell Regional Medical Center, The HealthCenter and Pathways Treatment Center after the facilities noted an increase in influenza admissions.
The new restrictions come a week after KRH suspended child visitation at its pediatrics unit due to an increase in child respiratory illnesses, like whooping cough, and stomach illnesses.
State health department Epidemiologist Stacey Anderson says while Montana has weathered three flu outbreaks this season, it’s been an average year so far.
"We're at a fraction of the cases this year compared to this time last year, but we're still seeing widespread activity across the state."
As of January 12, more than 600 flu cases had been reported statewide, including 44 hospitalizations and two deaths.
Anderson says last flu season was a particularly nasty, and disproportionately affected the elderly. She says this season’s predominant flu strain, Influenza A H1N1, can pose a greater risk to young people.
Pertussis, a vaccine-preventable illness also called whooping cough, is also making the rounds, with increased rates in Flathead and Big Horn Counties.
Anderson suggests getting a flu vaccine, regularly washing hands and staying home if you’re experiencing symptoms.
"You should be always doing that, of course, but even focus a little more so during cold and flu season."
Elsewhere, St. Peter’s Health in Helena has opened a seasonal Cold, Cough and Flu Clinic for community members experiencing flu-like symptoms, like cough, fever, runny nose, congestion and sore throat.