By KEVIN KNAPEK/Montana State News

While the flu is spreading at epidemic rates on some states, Montana is experiencing a mild flu season compared to other years. And Montana has been spared the vaccine shortages that have plagued some states.

“There were some short-term supply shortages recently,” according to Matt Kelley, health officer at Gallatin City Health Department,  “but so far that has not been a big problem and it did not surface until well after this flu season was under way. If people want a flu shot, they almost surely can find a way to get one.”

There have been six flu deaths and 126 hospitalizations statewide, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Service.

Of those who died, one person was under the age of 65. The others were over the age of 65. Kelley stated, “Keep in mind: We say that these are deaths and hospitalizations ‘related’ to influenza. Typically, people who die or are hospitalized usually have other health issues that contribute to enhanced flu problems.”

The federal Centers  for Disease Control recommends everyone over the age of six months, pregnant women and those with immune or respiratory problems get vaccinated. The vaccine prevents or minimizes the effects of the virus.

“To the extent we can prevent ourselves from contracting [a] communicable disease, we avoid the risk of passing them along to others. The influenza vaccine is the best weapon we have to protect ourselves and people around us who are vulnerable,” Kelley added. Since September  the  the county has administered 3,094 influenza vaccinations.

For those who are interested in getting vaccinated, call the health department at (406) 582-3100, to set up an appointment. The cost for a flu shot is $25, and a nasal mist is available for $35. They bill insurance carriers, including Medicare and Medicaid.

–Edited by Melinda Peirce

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