Influenza hits Mineral County; hospital visitors restricted

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Influenza has hit Mineral County and the Mineral Community Hospital has restricted visitor activity to protect both patients and the public against further outbreaks. (Kathleen Woodford/Mineral Independent)

There has been a spike in the cases of influenza hitting Montana communities over the past few weeks, with 359 new cases reported from 36 counties as of Dec. 30, 2017. Four of those cases were reported in Mineral County and Mineral Community Hospital was forced to post large red “warning” signs on their doors and restrict visitor activity.

“We are trying to decrease its spread by limiting the number of people inside the facility,” said the hospital’s director of nursing, Jenifer Mitchell.

Those who do come inside the building are asked to use face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

“We had a lot of visitors, including a number of children, over the holidays and along with that comes a lot of germs,” Mitchell said.

Both influenza A and B have been reported but type “A H3” has seen the biggest increase with all but five Montana counties reporting at least one case since the end of December. Influenza is a highly contagious, upper-respiratory disease caused by different strains of influenza viruses. While many people use the term “flu” to describe 24- or 48-hour bouts of illness, real influenza can interfere with normal daily activities for as long as a week, according to a report by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

The hospital went on lock-down last Monday, Jan. 1, and will remain that way for at least 10 days. If there are no new reports of illness it will be lifted, Mitchell said. Some residents in the long-term resident facility have tested positive but there have been no reports of death or serious illness.

Since Sept. 1, 2017 there has been 998 reported cases and 175 influenza-associated hospitalizations reported, with 10 reports of deaths, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

As many as 200,000 Americans are hospitalized because of it each year, and as many as 36,000 die of the disease or complications associated with it. Children under age 1, adults 65 or older and people suffering from certain medical conditions are at a higher risk of serious complications.

The Mineral County Health Department, Mineral Community Hospital along with the Center for Disease Control recommends people to get an influenza vaccine for ages six months and older. Also, wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Remember to cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and avoid contact with sick people. Also, stay home from work, school or social gatherings for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.

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