Flu season is just around the corner. That's worrisome to Montana health care officials, particularly in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic. They say Montanans need to be proactive to avoid contracting the flu.
The Montana health department starts surveilling for influenza cases on October 1.
According to Stacey Anderson, the agency’s lead communicable disease epidemiologist no cases of the flu have been reported in Montana this season.
“Not yet. That’s good.”
But she says it’s only a matter of time.
Montana’s flu season typically ramps up in November.
Anderson says it’s unclear what kind of impact COVID-19 precautions like mask wearing and social distancing; could have on this year’s flu season. But Anderson says one thing is certain: the flu shot helps prevent influenza infections.
"The science shows that flu shots are effective. And even if you do get the flu during the flu season, having a flu shot on board will keep you from having complications and hopefully prevent you from being hospitalized due to the flu."
And she says the fewer flu patients in Montana hospitals during the pandemic, the better. Some hospitals in the state are short on inpatient bed space and staff amid surging COVID-19 case numbers.
Anderson urges Montanans who haven’t already received a flu shot to get one as soon as possible.
In addition to the flu shot, health officials say stay home if you’re sick, keep sick kids away from in-school instructional days, wash your hands often, frequently clean and sanitize surfaces around you, cover your cough with your elbow, use tissues and throw them away.
The state health department says 41 Montanans died from influenza last fall and winter.