The Billings Outpost

State: It’s not too late to get flu vaccination

Influenza season has arrived in Montana and most regions of the state are reporting confirmed cases, according to the latest information from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). 

Recently reported cases of confirmed illness in several counties across the state has heightened concern among public health officials as Montana begins to enter the most active part of the influenza season. Influenza season typically peaks after the holidays, in January and February.

Health officials are letting people know there is still time to get vaccinated.

“We are seeing a recent increase in the number of cases reported and we are just entering the worst months,” DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell said. “However, there is still time to get vaccinated and protect yourself and those around you from becoming ill.”

DPHHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend an annual influenza vaccination for everyone older than six months of age as the best way to protect against flu viruses. “There is still plenty of vaccine available, and it isn’t too late to get vaccinated,” said Lisa Underwood, DPHHS Immunization Section Supervisor. “Protection against influenza viruses can decline over the course of a year, so even people who received a flu shot last year should get vaccinated again this year.”

While everyone over 6 months of age can benefit from influenza vaccine, it is particularly important for individuals with asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, or any chronic health issues to protect themselves. DPHHS reports that people with chronic health issues have a higher risk of developing problems or dying if infected with influenza. “It’s important for people with these chronic health problems to avoid any strain on their immune systems or complicating their medical conditions,” Underwood said. “Those at risk, and those who care for them, should get a flu shot to prevent influenza from making things worse.” 

This year’s seasonal influenza vaccine provides protection against the same virus strains as last year, including protection from the H1N1 influenza virus strain that caused the 2009 influenza pandemic.

For  information, contact the DPHHS Immunization Program at 444-5580.

 

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