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Health experts warn of a severe flu season, urge Montanans to get vaccinated


Early indicators have state public health officials bracing for what could be a significant influenza season.

Australia is emerging from its worst influenza season in five years — it arrived earlier and hit harder than normal. The southern hemisphere’s flu trends can sometimes be a harbinger of what the United States may face.

Montana Health Department influenza epidemiologist Devon Cozart says Montana could be in for a severe flu season this fall and winter.

“This is especially true when you do consider the last two flu seasons we had here in Montana where activity was very minimal compared to previous seasons," she said. "We may be more susceptible this season to influenza infection, especially in young children whose immune systems may not have strong immunity to the flu virus yet.”

Health Department Immunization Section Supervisor Trisha Gardner is urging Montanans to get their flu shot in the coming weeks.

“The recommendation is really September, October to receive those vaccines – particularly by the end of October to get those in your system would be ideal," she said.

But Gardner adds if you can’t make that deadline, a little late is far better than no flu vaccine at all. She says it’s perfectly safe to simultaneously get the new COVID-19 Omicron bivalent booster and the flu shot.

Health officials say frequent hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands and staying away from work when sick, also helps prevent the spread of illness.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.