Havre Daily News
The Hill County Health Department is giving out flu shots to high-risk people and says it has enough shots for anybody who wants one after Oct. 24.
While some counties in Montana are experiencing a shortage, Health Department director Cindy Smith said Hill County will have enough vaccine to go around. She said everybody should get a flu shot to keep their immune system strong and to protect the people around them.
The Health Department is trying to reach the elderly, very young and infirm people first, she said. People who fall into the ”priority“ categories can receive a shot by calling the Health Department and making an appointment. Healthy adults can contact the department after Oct. 24. The phone number is 265-5481, ext. 266. The Health Department can accommodate people who are not mobile.
Priority groups for vaccines before Oct. 24 include:
people 65 and older;
residents of long-term care facilities;
children ages 6 to 23 months;
health care personnel who provide direct care;
people who share a home with or care for infants under 6 months of age;
people ages 2 to 64 with underlying health conditions including: cancer, respiratory disease, cardiac conditions, immune suppression, renal conditions, blood disorders and diabetes.
Smith said it's important for everybody to get a flu shot to protect the health of the high-risk people in the community.
”We need to do it like a wagon train. ... All of us help not to spread it to them,“ Smith said.
A regular flu vaccine can protect people's health in the event of a bird flu outbreak, she said. The virulent flu strain has been reported in humans in Asia and parts of Europe, sparking fears of a flu pandemic.
The regular vaccine would not prevent people from getting bird flu, but someone who is not suffering from the flu can better fight off another illness, Smith said.
The Montana Department of Health and Human Services has not confirmed any flu cases yet this flu season, communicable disease surveillance officer Jim Murphy said today.
The typical flu season lasts from October to May, he said.
DPHHS will pay particular attention to the first few cases and analyze the strains to be sure that this year's flu vaccine protects against the disease, Murphy said. Health officials around the world are paying close attention this year because of the possibility of a bird flu pandemic.
”We're seeing stuff in the news about pandemic, but the truth of the matter is, when you look at what the experts are saying, nobody knows when or if this will happen,“ Murphy said.
In the event of a pandemic, the state would follow a national plan that includes the distribution of vaccine, once it's developed, and the distribution of anti-viral drugs to help people recover.
In the event of a pandemic, the county would see something like the flu clinic conducted last year during flu season, Smith said. The county gave out more than 1,000 doses in a few days to test its ability to reach many people in a short time period. The Health Department sent mobile units to rest homes and to people who were homebound during the mass vaccination clinic.
Smith said the county also has contingency plans for caring for a large number of sick people. If Northern Montana Hospital were overwhelmed, the county could either send patients to other hospitals or set up temporary facilities within the county, she said.
The Health Department is instructing people to wash their hands frequently and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze to avoid spreading the flu. The department recommends hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available and is telling people to stay home from school or work when sick with the flu. A well-balanced diet, rest and plenty of water can help people stay healthy and avoid succumbing to the flu.
Vaccines are $10 for infants, $15 for children 3 to 8, and $20 for people 9 and older. The flu mist, available for healthy adults who are not pregnant, is $28.