First cases of flu confirmed in Custer County

The flu season has officially arrived.

Cindia Ellis, public health coordinator, of OneHealth  in Miles City said Thursday that three confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in Custer County.

Officials from the State Department of Health and Human Services, who confirmed the flu cases, said there is influenza across the state. As a result, Ellis says that means “the season is on.”

While there have been no hospitalizations in Custer County and no reported deaths from influenza complications, Ellis recommends that anyone who skipped getting vaccinated last fall should get a ‘flu shot’ now.

While it takes two weeks for the vaccine to reach full-effect, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, getting an influenza vaccination will still reduce the chance of catching the flu and, if a patient does get ill, reduce the chance of serious complications such as pneumonia.

Currently all of the local sources for influenza vaccines, including Holy Rosary Healthcare, Billings Clinic, OneHealth, Albertsons and Walmart, all have vaccine in-stock and ready to administer.

Ellis encourages vaccination because the more people that are vaccinated, the lower the risk to those particularly susceptible to the illness or its complications. 

“We all need to protect the very young and the very old,” said Ellis.

Those groups, plus those whose immune systems are compromised for whatever reason, are better protected from the flu if they simply aren’t exposed to it.

Ellis’ recommendations for avoiding infection? “Get your flu shot; stay away from folks who are ill; wash your hands; cover your coughs and sneezes (flu can spread to others up to 6 feet away); dispose of used Kleenexes; stay home if you are ill; take care of yourself, eat well, drink plenty of fluids,  and get plenty of rest.”

If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your health-care provider for advice. If you have the emergency warning signs of flu complications, such as severe shortness of breath or trouble breathing in infants or adults, you should go to the emergency room, she said. 

Additionally, Ellis says there have been some anecdotal reports from school absence reports that a stomach virus, probably norovirus, have been going around. While often referred to as “stomach flu,” norovirus is a completely different virus from true influenza.