Written by The Herald-News
The Department of Public Health and Human Services has confirmed the first influenza cases of the season in Gallatin and Flathead counties. Both counties have reported two cases each.
Public health officials say that these first cases are a great reminder for the public to get vaccinated against influenza as soon as possible. State, tribal and local public health authorities indicate vaccine is widely available and recommend taking advantage of the vaccine.
“Even if you received the vaccine last year, you should still get vaccinated this year, as the circulating viruses change,” said DPHHS director Richard Opper. “With the options available, getting vaccinated is easier than ever. We’d like to make sure everyone can stay healthy this winter.”
Influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone older than six months. Annual vaccination is the safest and most effective method to prevent influenza infections. The composition of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated to protect against the flu viruses that research indicates will be the most common during the upcoming season.
Individuals seeking vaccine have many options, including a new quadrivalent shot that covers four different influenza viruses. Other options include a high dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older, a “short needle” intradermal flu shot approved for people 18 through 64 years of age, and the regular and nasal-spray vaccines. Public health officials recommend Montanans consult with their healthcare provider regarding the best option.
Protection provided by vaccination lasts throughout the entire flu season, even when vaccine is given in early fall. A new dose is needed every year to keep up active defense against viruses.
“Individuals with asthma, diabetes and many other chronic medical conditions, the elderly, pregnant women and young children can become very ill if infected by influenza", said Jim Murphy of the DPHHS Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau. “We urge people to get vaccinated now to protect themselves and others who are vulnerable.”
People wanting to get immunized, or have their children vaccinated, should consult their health care provider. Vaccinations are available at doctor offices, county or tribal health departments, and many pharmacies.
More information can be found at the DPHHS web site, www.dphhs.mt.gov.