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The death of a Yellowstone County child marks the first recorded influenza-related fatality of the 2021-22 flu season, according to a news release from Riverstone Health Clinic.
The age of the child, who died on December 24, was not disclosed in the release. But the release said the child had underlying health conditions and had not received a flu shot. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services confirmed with Riverstone Health that the death was the first death and the first pediatric death of the 2021-2022 influenza season in Montana.
With 300 cases reported in Yellowstone, Riverstone said influenza activity is rising in both the county and across the state.
“As of December 25, 2021, there have been 569 confirmed cases, 35 hospitalizations, and one death reported in Montana. Influenza cases have been confirmed in 35 counties,” the release stated. And 53% of all flu cases are in children and teens under 18 years old.
Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported no pediatric flu deaths for the week ending December 25, 2021. In Montana, the last flu-related pediatric deaths occurred during the 2018-2019 influenza season when one child under the age of 18 died, according to the release.
“It is still early in the flu season, and there is still time to get vaccinated. An annual flu shot is the best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications,” the release said. The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine.
Health officials have expressed concerns over the spread of influenza as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, saying they are worried about co-infections of the two viruses and over-crowding in hospitals. On Wednesday, the state reported 1,099 new COVID-19 cases.
While influenza viruses have continued to evolve, to date, this year’s vaccine virus appears to be a good match for the primary influenza strain circulating this year in the U.S. and Montana. However, the release said more data is needed before a determination can be made on the vaccine’s effectiveness for this flu season.
Riverstone said the virus is spread through coughing and sneezing, and symptoms can include high fever, chills, headaches, exhaustion, sore throat, cough and body aches.
“It may take about 1 to 4 days after being exposed to the virus for symptoms to develop. Additionally, you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else a day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick,” the release said.
Riverstone said the following measures can be taken to help stop the spread of influenza:
- Getting a flu shot.
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Washing your hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoiding close contact with sick people.
- Staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or necessities.
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