State urges vaccinations after Yellowstone County child dies of flu

RiverStone Health, in conjunction with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, has confirmed the first pediatric death of the 2017-2018 influenza season in Montana.

In a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, RiverStone Health said the school-age child was a Yellowstone County resident. RiverStone, the Yellowstone public health agency, did not identify or give the age of the child.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there have been 97 flu-related pediatric deaths so far this season. In Montana, the last flu-related pediatric deaths occurred during the 2015-2016 influenza season, when two children under the age of 18 died.

Influenza activity remains widespread in Montana, but there has been a decline in recent weeks, in overall case counts, hospitalizations and influenza-like illnesses, the press release continued.

To date, there have been 6,500 cases, 674 hospitalizations and 33 deaths reported in Montana. In Yellowstone County, there have been 649 reported cases, 131 hospitalizations and four deaths, including the pediatric death.

There still are many weeks of flu activity left and the CDC continues to recommend getting a flu shot to help protect against influenza.

The disease spreads through coughing and sneezing with symptoms that can include high fever, chills, headaches, exhaustion, sore throat, cough and body aches.  It may take about one to four days after being exposed to the virus for symptoms to develop.  Additionally, it is possible to pass on the flu to someone else one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.

RiverStone Health said these everyday precautions can help stop the spread of influenza:

♦ Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

♦ Washing your hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available.

♦ Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

♦ Avoiding close contact with sick people.

♦ Staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or necessities.