Flu bug attacks county

On the heels of Whooping Cough, another virus has arrived in Pondera County: Influenza A 2009 H1N1.

Though influenza like illness has been noted regionally for over a month, Pondera County confirmed its first case of influenza with the Montana State Public Health Lab just before Christmas.

With 14 positive rapid influenza tests now reported to the state, one hospitalization, and several more cases of influenza like illnesses, Pondera County and the state of Montana anticipate an upgraded designation of widespread activity soon.

“This is shaping up to be a busy flu season. It’s starting a little early and this is an unusually high amount of positive quick tests” says Cynthia Grubb, RN Pondera County Health Department (PCHD).

She went on to add, “Vaccination is still recommended though it takes approximately two weeks to gain immune levels from the vaccine. During these times, it is important to go back to the basics of flu prevention.Get your flu shot. Wash your hands frequently. Avoid contact with sick people especially if you are at high risk for complications from influenza. And maybe the most important, stay home from work and school if you are sick, making sure to cover your cough and sneeze.”

“Also, if you are at risk for complication for instance elderly, asthmatic, or immunosuppressed, contact your doctor if you think you have the flu. Flu Symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, coughing and body aches,” she said.

In response to the elevated levels of influenza, Pondera Medical Center has instituted the following visitor restrictions. Please do not visit if you are ill. Also according to Lisa Hanson, Director of Clinical Services, “No visitors under the age of 18, until further notice, however, exceptions may be made in extraordinary circumstances.” Hanson notes that patients needing to see the providers or use other services such as lab and X-ray may be asked to put on masks (provided in the reception areas) if they are coughing.

Laura Erickson, Chief Nursing Officer for Pondera Medical Center states, “Our elderly are at high risk for complications and we are doing everything we can to protect them.”

Besides visitor restriction, Pondera Medical Center strongly encourages vaccinations for all staff and residents. You may still receive vaccine at the Pondera County Health Department and Pondera Medical Center Clinic.

For more information go to www.cdc.gov/flu or contact Grubb at the PCHD at 271-3247.