Flathead flu activity remains highest in state

Flathead City-County health worker getting ready to administer flu vaccination

Montana health officials are reporting about 998 flu cases as of Dec. 30, with Flathead County having the highest number across the state.

Kalispell mother Ruth Raish homeschools two of her kids. "I think that having the two at home can help them not get as sick as much, because I can kind of control their environment and where they are," said Raish.

Her older son goes to Flathead High School.

"He's been sick more this year, and actually my two homeschool kids haven't been sick yet," said Raish.

Viruses tend to spread fast in places like schools, so Flathead City-County health officials urge everyone to get vaccinated for the flu.

Reported cases of the flu are two weeks ahead of last year’s season.

Deputy health officer Kerry Nuckles said so far they have reported 241 cases in the Flathead Valley. She even thinks that number might be low.

"It does seem like it’s an uptick from previous years," said Nuckles.

Part of the reason the flu could be more widespread this year is that the vaccine is created at least six months in advance.

"That’s what makes influenza such a tricky disease,” said Nuckles. “It does mutate too rapidly.”

Deciding what strains are going to be most prevalent is a guessing game.

"We’re always concerned that we might not have a good match between the flu vaccine and the circulating strains,” said Nuckles. “It looks like it might not be as good of a match this year."

Nuckles told NBC Montana the vaccine is still the best line of defense against the flu.

Other preventive measures one can take are washing hands and covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing.

“If you do get sick try to limit your exposure to other people," said Nuckles.

Raish already limits her children’s exposure, but she has some other tips to keep them healthy.

"I think if you eat healthy and try to stay away from sugar and get the sleep you need, you can fight those things off pretty well," Raish told NBC Montana.

Nuckles said there is no way to tell if the cases will continue to increase this quickly, but being extra careful can’t hurt.

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