12:14 AM

Flathead County health entities address flu concerns

In collaboration with Kalispell Regional Healthcare (KRH), the Flathead City-County Health Department recognizes community concerns regarding the influenza outbreak in the Flathead Valley and nationwide. The Montana Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,931 cases of flu in the state of Montana for the influenza season through January 13, 2018, which defines influenza as widespread in the state of Montana.

“So far for the 2017-2018 influenza season, Flathead County has had more than 300 cases of influenza, more than 40 people hospitalized due to influenza and five influenza-related deaths. We are about two weeks ahead of where we were last year at this time,” stated Flathead City-County Health Department Health Officer Hillary Hanson.

In 2018, the flu vaccine has been 30 percent effective compared to an average of 40 percent effectiveness over the last 13 years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Influenza continues to be one of our top public health concerns. It is not too late to receive the vaccination, which will help reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus as well as protecting our most vulnerable populations,” said Hanson.

Medical experts at all facilities urge hand hygiene as one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of illness. Hand washing, using hand sanitizer and covering a cough can help prevent illness.

All health care facilities request that anyone who is feeling sick or showing any flu symptoms stay home. Visitors may be asked to leave a health care facility if symptomatic. Visitor restrictions may be in place at various health care facilities throughout flu season. Please check with the health care facility before arriving to determine visitor or age restrictions.

If you do experience flu symptoms or are diagnosed with the flu, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol, before returning to or participating in work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings.

The CDC states that most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.

If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a high-risk group such as young children, people 65 and older, or pregnant women, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician assistant, etc.).

While many cases of flu do not require an emergency medical visit, some symptoms can develop that necessitate a visit to the emergency department (ER). Please view the below checklist to be aware of emergency warning signs of flu.

When should you go the ER?


  • Any symptoms listed below for children
  • Unable to eat
  • Trouble breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal


  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flulike symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash


  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flulike symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

There are alternatives to going to the ER, including urgent care clinics and virtual urgent care such as KRH Care Anywhere, which allows patients to receive a diagnosis and medical recommendations via a secure online connection. KRH Care Anywhere is $45 per use and can be accessed online at krhcareanywhere.org.

Flu season activity can last as late as May, so it is important that residents work to protect themselves and their families by being vaccinated, staying home when sick except to seek medical care, and maintaining hand hygiene.