Char-Koosta News

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Flu season is now, get a flu shot if you haven’t yet gotten one

By B.L. Azure

ST. IGNATIUS — We are smack dab into the meaty portion of the flu season. The flu is a serious disease that can be fatal. Approximately two weeks ago a Hill County woman in her mid-50s succumb to the H1N1 strain of flu, the main stain of flu in Montana and the nation. Those who have gotten their flu shots should weather the storm well and those who have yet to get a flu vaccination should do so as soon as possible; it takes two weeks for the vaccination to have any effect.

“We are currently in the peak time of the flu season — January and February,” said Tribal Health Community Health Director Tammy Matt. “The type of flu we are seeing here (Flathead Reservation) is the H1N1 strain that was predominant in 2009.”

Matt said results from the state laboratory tests on samples sent in from Tribal Health confirmed that H1N1 was the strain on the Flathead Reservation.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services recently announced that half of the state’s counties have reported confirmed cases of influenza.

Influenza-related hospitalizations across the state have also increased. As of Tuesday, January 4, there have been 101 hospitalizations reported this season, with over half in the last two weeks. Further, one death from complications of influenza was reported last week in a Hill County resident. DPHHS influenza surveillance for the 2013-14 season officially began on October 1, 2013.

“It is important that all individuals older than six months get vaccinated to protect themselves and others,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper in a press release. “Pharmacies and health departments still have vaccine and getting vaccinated is the single most important thing you can do to prevent influenza and its complications.”

The virus responsible for cases this year is the same H1N1 strain that circulated during the 2009 season. The current vaccine includes protection against H1N1 as well as other types of influenza expected to circulate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received a number of reports of severe illness among young and middle-aged adults and strongly encourages those in these age groups to be vaccinated.

To lesson the severity of flu or chances of getting the flu the DPHHS advises:
   • Get vaccinated. Protect yourself and others by getting vaccinated now.
   • If you are ill, stay home from work or school. CDC recommends that you or your child stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
   •Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
   •Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm if you have no other choice.
   • Washing your hands often will help protect you from viruses like influenza. Soap and water should be your first choice, but if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
   • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Viruses are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with viruses and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
   •If you get sick, ask your healthcare provider if antiviral drugs are right for you. They can prevent serious flu complications like pneumonia. For people with a high-risk medical condition, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having milder illness instead of very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.

Matt said Tribal Health has an abundant stock of influenza vaccine.

It takes about two months for the body to develop an immune response so Matt recommends those who haven’t yet gotten a flu shot to get one as soon as possible.

People can schedule an appointment with Community Health or at one of the THHS clinics, by calling the THHS clinic in their area. Matt said it’s important to schedule an appointment with Community Health because the nurses spend a lot of time in the field. The clinics have a bit more flexibility and people can drop in but still an appointment is preferred.

The clinic phone numbers are: Arlee: 726-3224; St. Ignatius: 745-3525; Ronan: 676-8778; Polson: 883-5541; Elmo: 849-5798; and, Hot Springs: 741-3266.

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