Havre Daily News
Feeling a little blue? It might be the flu.
The flu bug began making its rounds in earnest two weeks ago. As of Thursday, 106 cases had been confirmed by testing at the Bullhook Clinic and other medical facilities in Havre, a Hill County Health Department spokeswoman said.
The highest number of cases, Pam Burke said, have been in two age groups: children ranging from newborns to 10-year-olds, and men and women over 65.
The clinic still has the flu shot, and there is a limited supply of free doses of the vaccine available to those who make an appointment, she said. Children under 6 months old cannot get the shot, but the department recommends the vaccine for people who are around infants and young children.
A perfect defense against the flu doesn't exist, but the vaccine is the best shot, Burke said. In healthy adults, it is 70 to 90 percent effective. In the elderly, it's 30 to 60 percent effective, but 80 percent effective in preventing flu-related death. Some people who've had the shot may still get the flu because their immune system is weakened by stress or another illness, she added.
The shot works by boosting the body's defenses against the virus. Those who've had the shot and still get the flu often get over the illness more quickly, Burke said.
She said the flu viruses going around town are the typical A and B strains. The timing of the spike in cases isn't anything unusual, she said. The health department begins its flu watch in October and keeps a lookout until the end of May.
Burke said people who come down with the illness need to go see their doctor and drink plenty of fluids.
The symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, diarrhea and vomiting. Sick people can become dehydrated, and the virus can worsen chronic medical conditions, she said. In some cases, the flu can progress into bacterial pneumonia.
She said the flu is most often “spread through coughing, sneezing - what they call respiratory droplets,” though occasionally a person can become infected by touching an object that has carries the virus and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
Burke said the next-best line of defense against the flu is cleanliness. The department recommends regular washing of the hands. Also: cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing, then throw the tissue away. Sick people should stay home from work and social gatherings, she added.