Yellowstone County resident, first flu fatality in Montana in 2020-2023 season

BILLINGS — RiverStone Health, in collaboration with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), announced Thursday that it has confirmed the first death of Montana’s 2022-2023 flu season.

An elderly, unvaccinated Yellowstone County man died at a Billings hospital over Thanksgiving weekend, according to a press release.

Montana reported its first case of the flu in late September, and influenza activity in Montana has increased in recent weeks, the press release said.

RiverStone Health Records show that as of Nov. 30 there have been 474 reported cases, 29 hospitalizations and one death in Yellowstone County due to the flu.

Because DPHHS is reporting flu cases for the state of Montana and there is a reporting lag time, as of November 19, DPHHS reported 957 cases and 27 hospitalizations due to the flu.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there have been at least 6.2 million illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from flu so far this season.

“It’s still early in the flu season and the CDC still recommends getting a flu vaccine because it’s the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu and its potentially serious complications,” RiverStone Health officials said in the press release. “Flu vaccines are available through the RiverStone Health Immunization Clinic, the RiverStone Health Clinic and other doctor’s offices and pharmacies in the community. Call 406.247.3382 to make an appointment with the Immunization Clinic or 406.247.3350 to make an appointment with the RiverStone Health Clinic for a flu shot.”

The flu spreads through coughing and sneezing with symptoms such as high fever, chills, headache, fatigue, sore throat, cough and body aches. It can take about 1 to 4 days after exposure to the virus for symptoms to develop.

In addition, you may be able to pass the flu to another person a day before symptoms appear and up to 5 to 7 days after you get sick.

Daily precautions can help stop the spread of the flu. These measures include:

  • Get vaccinated against influenza.
  • Wear a mask or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone, except to receive medical care or necessities.