Western Montana recovering from flu season


KALISPELL, Mont. - It's been a rough flu season for Western Montana. Already we've seen nearly 1,000 cases more than last year.

As usual it's hurt the most vulnerable the most. People over the age of 65 have five times greater chance of being hospitalized due to influenza compared to any other age group.

We found one assisted living facility that has been an outlier.

"We've been very fortunate this year. We haven't had any residents get influenza this year," Prestige Assisted Living director Pat Ill said.

Considering the numbers, fortunate is right. In Flathead County alone there's been almost 350 more reported cases of influenza this year compared to last.

Missoula County is up 551 from 458 last year, and Gallatin County is up 682 from 521.

The Flathead County Health Department says, despite the increases in influenza this year, it appears cases have sharply fallen since their 150 cases a week peak.

"Last week we had 30 confirmed influenza cases. Seven were strain A, and the remaining 23 were confirmed strain B," Flathead County Health Department nurse Natalie Bucher said. Bucher says a rise in influenza B means spring is here and flu season is on its way out.

Bucher recommends anyone to get their flu shot who hasn't yet.

Last year Flathead County saw nearly a third of its 596 influenza cases during a two-week period in March.

Ill credits flu shots along with a strict policy for their success. She said, "The elderly realize they're a vulnerable population and they're very motivated to get flu shots. Some years it works well, other years it doesn't"

Season to-date across Montana there have been 19 reported deaths and 678 hospitalizations due to influenza.