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Flathead County sees jump in influenza cases

By Rebecca Vogt, KCFW Reporter, rvogt@kcfw.com
Published On: Jan 03 2013 08:43:51 PM MST
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Flathead health officials report flu numbers weekly and this week the numbers nearly doubled.

"Up until last week we had about 55 cases and now we're up to 98," said Health Officer Joe Russell. "More people that are sick will transmit it to more people that are susceptible. So you'll see this spike."

The confirmed cases have been in folks of all ages but the numbers don't lie, and it greatly concerns staff at the Brendan House, a nursing home and care facility in Kalispell.

"The elderly are very susceptible," said Brendan House's Kim Spicher. "We have seen very little of it in our employee population and none in our elderly populations. So we have been very lucky."

Spicher said that's due to the fact that 87% of Brendan House employees have had the flu vaccine. Those who have not wear protective masks when tending to the residents. They also have measures in place if the disease enters the building.

"We isolate them as soon as symptoms appear," Spicher explained, "and then keep them isolated until we can rule out that anything is there. So we'll do a flu nasal swab, or that kind of thing. If it comes back negative we'll loosen up the restrictions."

Though the season has started earlier than expected, there are still ways to protect against the flu.

"Wash your hands, cover your cough," said Russell. "Do some of the more physical barriers to prevent transmission and contraction."

And there's always the influenza vaccine, readily available at the City-County Health Department. It protects against most strains of Influenza A and B.

"Even though we're seeing an increase in it, it's still okay to get vaccinated and hopefully protected," said Russell.