County health urges people to get flu vaccine


Custer County still has just one confirmed case of influenza right now, but there may be other cases out there. 

And according to a local public health official, as of this morning the state has seen enough influenza across Montana that they will now consider the rapid influenza test as confirmatory, so the number of reported cases should start increasing.

Cindia Miller, public health emergency preparedness coordinator for Custer County Public Health, said the vaccine takes about two weeks to develop a full immune response, so reminding people who haven’t yet been vaccinated is very important right now. 

This is actually National Influenza Vaccination Week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza typically does not peak until January, so it’s not too late to be vaccinated.

“Please encourage all to get their influenza vaccine, as we have had one case of laboratory-confirmed influenza here locally,” Miller said.

County health encourages everyone over the ages of six months to be vaccinated.

As of Nov. 30, the latest state mapping period, there were 15 confirmed cases of flu in seven counties. 

Custer County was not among those but has since reported one case. Not everyone who has influenza seeks medical care or testing, and providers may not opt to test all patients, so the number of actual cases is hard to pinpoint.

“The sensitivity of influenza testing begins declining 48-72 hours after onset of symptoms, and so providers don’t always test based on how long the person has been ill,” Miller said. “They may go ahead and prescribe antivirals for suspected illness if appropriate for that patient.”

According to the Nov. 30 map from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Gallatin County had the highest number of confirmed flu cases, with between 31 and 40. Lincoln, Flathead, Missoula, Deer Lodge, Park and Yellowstone counties all had between 1 and 10 confirmed cases. At that time, there had been two influenza-associated hospitalizations, and no reported deaths.  

Miller said people interested in getting flu vaccine should call their usual provider and verify that they have stock on hand.

“If Custer County Public Health is your provider of immunizations, we do have stock on hand,” she said. “Just give us a call and we can get you a time to come in.”

Not all flu shot providers vaccinate younger children, so call ahead to see what their guidelines are.

The vaccine being administered actually includes strains of three viruses, in an effort to guard against different strains of the flu. Some providers also have quadrivalent vaccine, which covers four strains, Miller said.