BOZEMAN, Mont. - According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of states experiencing widespread flu activity more than doubled at the end of the December, jumping from 10 to 25.
We are now in the fourth month of flu season. Officials at Bozeman Deaconess tell us phones have been ringing off the hook for two weeks. They are seeing an increase number of people coming down with the flu.
Dr. Mark Winton at Bozeman Deaconess sat down with us Thursday afternoon and explained the flu got a head start this season.
"Typically we don't see the Influenza A hitting until the second or third week of January," said Winton.
With the flu spreading quickly, Winton says his vaccine supply is running low. At the beginning of the season he started with 2,300 doses. Now his office has less than 300. Even though his supply is down, Winton wants people to know the No. 1 way to protect your family is by getting the flu shot. He tells us there are different options for different age groups.
"The age six months to two years you have to get the shot," said Winton.
For those ages 2-49 there is an alternative to the shot: "A nasal influenza vaccine is where you sniff it up your nostrils and it provides good coverage and few side effects," said Winton.
Winton explains manufacturers distribute the shots every year, and which shot you get is determined by what strain is expected to be widespread. In the 2013-2014, season the H1N1 strand tops the list.
"We see what is circulating in the southern hemisphere six months before it makes it over here, and try to predict look at what type of viruses are going to show up in the northern hemisphere," said Winton.
We checked into some recent Montana flu numbers for the season. Since October 1, 101 people in the state have been hospitalized because of the flu virus. More than half of those happened in the past two weeks. One person in Montana has died from complications. The death was reported in Hill County, on the hi-line near the Canadian border.
So far this flu season, several Montana hospitals, including Bozeman Deaconess Hospital and St. James Healthcare in Butte, have enforced visitor restrictions.