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Number of flu cases rises in Montana

By Heidi Meili, Anchor, hmeili@keci.com
Published On: Jan 16 2013 09:18:35 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 16 2013 10:05:16 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

The number of confirmed and suspected flu cases is now around 1,600 people in Montana.

Close to 60 people have gone to the hospital and one woman in Eastern Montana has died.

The flu season came early to hospitals in Western Montana.  One theory for the hard-hitting outbreak is that last year was a mild flu season and immunities may not be as strong this year.

First and foremost,  doctors are urging everyone older than 6 months to get vaccinated.

Dr. David Lechner, the President of the Community Physicians Group, tells NBC Montana, "Really, there's very few people who should not get an immunization going forward.  It's a safe vaccine."

More and more flu patients are filling up emergency room beds and we may not have seen the worst of it yet.

Lechner adds, "Montana is behind the rest of the country when it comes to hitting the peaks.  We don't know if we have seen the peak yet or not, until we can look back and see that we are having fewer cases.  We are having people coming into the hospital.  There are hopitalizations occuring, there are ER visits occuring."

If you have questions, doctors want you to call the 24-hour nursing hotline. The phone number is (406) 327-4770.

"They can run their symptoms by to see if this is the true flu.  A lot of people mistake what the flu is.  They think if they have diarrhea and vomiting they have the flu.  Well, this is influenza.  It is a very specific respiratory disease," Lechner explains.

Also, if you think you have the flu, doctors want you to stay at home and drink plenty of fluids.