HELENA — Montana health leaders have not yet reported the first case of flu in the state, but at hospitals like St. Peter's Health in Helena, they're watching what is happening in other states and preparing for the virus's eventual arrival.
To help prevent a major spread of the flu around Montana during the holiday season Dr. Ashley Coggins says to be safe rather than sorry by washing your hands regularly and staying home when you are sick.
The flu season couldn't have arrived at a worse time by joining the two other viruses spreading around the nation.
"The medical community is calling that the 'trippledemic' because of RSV, influenza, and COVID all happening at the same time. So the more people who are vaccinated, and can stay healthy and out of a hospital setting, the better our community will be to be able to keep providing in-patient care," said Coggins.
The "trippledemic" is no joke the overall cumulative hospitalization rate per 100,000 population was 1.5. This cumulative hospitalization rate is higher than the cumulative in-season hospitalization rate in previous seasons going back to 2010-2011, which ranged from 0 to 0.3.
"Already 360-some deaths in the united states from influenza, just this season. So vaccination is key, you may still get sick, but you're not gonna get as sick or spread it as easily if you're vaccinated," said Coggins.
Coggins says the easiest way to protect yourself during the flu season, is to get your flu shot.
"Flu shots are readily available at the county health department, all the local pharmacies, St. Peters Health, PureView, and anywhere you can call your doctor if you don't know where to get one, but they are easy to find," said Coggins.
The flu season typically starts on October 1 nationally. The CDC estimates that, so far there have been at least 880,000 flu illnesses this season.