By Zandra Johnson
With the falling leaves and gorgeous scenery that comes along every fall, another guest that is not as welcome also joins us, flu season.
According to a press release from the Lincoln County Public Health Department (LCPH), in Montana, flu season usually peaks in February and lasts through May, but ten counties in Montana have already reported influenza cases.
LCPH is encouraging everyone who is six months and older to get a flu vaccine before the end of October. Vaccinations are now available through local medical providers, pharmacies, and LCPH.
Every year flu season is different, and last year was the worst one in nearly a decade, according to the CDC. The severity was primarily caused by the H3N2 strain of the influenza virus. Last year’s number of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths was severe, according to the Center for Disease Control, and reports of flu cases were at or above the national baseline for 19 weeks, making it one of the longest lasting seasons in recent years.
The flu is a very common viral infection that can cause fever and muscle aches. It strikes the lungs, nose and throat, and although it is possible to carry the virus with mild symptoms or not realizing it at all, it is contagious.
Symptoms that can begin two days after being exposed may include fatigue, headache, cough, congestion, runny nose, fever, chills, and muscle aches. When treated, rest and letting the body fight the infection is recommended.
Those with comprised immune systems, the very young, elderly, pregnant, or people with a chronic disease are at higher risk. Flu, colds and other ailments threaten everyone, but especially these groups.
It is too early in the 2018-2019 flu season to predict it’s severity, but as always, prevention is an important first step to defend against sickness.
Along with getting an annual flue vaccine, diligent hand-washing, getting enough rest, eating healthy, exercising regularly, staying home if you are experiencing signs of illness, and calling your medical provider with questions are important. It’s also important to remember that the annual flu vaccine protects each of us and also protects those around us from getting the virus.
The flu vaccine does not provide a guarantee that you will avoid the flu, but the CDC statistics show that if you are vaccinated and still diagnosed with the flu, it may help ease the severity of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.
Now is a good time to get the flu shot since it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective.
There are lots of options in Libby and Troy to get a flu shot, and usually no appointment is necessary if that is all you need. Insurance typically covers flu shots, and many providers offer discounts for cash customers, but it’s always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider to be sure.
Walk ins are welcome at the CHC locations in both Libby and in Troy from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Libby Clinic offers walk in flu shots on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Rosauers Pharmacy is offering flu vaccines on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. without an appointment. Cabinet Peaks Family Medicine and Urgent Care offers walk in flu shots during their business hours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The CARD Clinic offers walk-in flu vaccines for their patients as well.
Influenza and other vaccines such as pneumonia and booster vaccines are available at the Lincoln County Public Health offices in Libby and Eureka. Walk-ins are welcome, and appointments are also available.
“There is still time to set up a mobile flu clinic to be sure that everyone in your workplace has the opportunity to be vaccinated without disrupting your workday. Call me today to schedule,” said Trista Gilmore, LPN, Public Health Nurse.
Some additional tips to help us get through cold and flu season include remembering to disinfect highly used devices such as cell phones, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, cleaning regularly touched surfaces in the home such as door knobs and remote controls, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and refraining from touching your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
Contact Lincoln County Public Health nurse, Trista Gilmore in Libby at 283-2447 or visit www.cdc.gov/flu for more information