KECI

Flathead influenza cases increase, more than double Missoula Co.

MISSOULA, Mont. - Influenza cases in Flathead County are now the highest in the state according to the latest report from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

The Feb. 25 report states the Flathead saw 72 new cases in just one week, totaling over 800 cases for flu season -- twice the amount in Missoula County.

The Flathead City-County Health Department says the sharp increase is due to a high volume of influenza cases at five assisted-living facilities in the county.

The report states those 65 and over are the most severely affected.

Lewis and Clark County and Gallatin County are also seeing high influenza numbers, with over 50 new cases in the last week.

Missoula City-County Health Department infectious disease specialist Pam Whitney says influenza cases appear to be decreasing in the Missoula area.

"We're seeing more influenza B (cases right now)," Whitney says. She says influenza A is usually the most severe, and influenza B is more mild. "In the past, that's been the trend. When we start seeing influenza B it seems to be getting to the end of flu season."

Whitney says fewer people have been hospitalized in recent weeks from influenza. She says most severe cases involve people with other medical issues that could increase the risk of contracting influenza.

Whitney says the H3N2 influenza strain circulated this winter. She says the strain was covered in this year's flu vaccines.

The report shows four new cases in Butte-Silver Bow in the last week, seven in Ravalli County and none in Lake County.

The report states 14 people have died from influenza in Montana this season.

Despite the decrease in counties like Missoula the flu remains at its highest alert status, "widespread."

You can read the full report here.


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