According to the Missoula City-County Health Department, the number of flu cases in Montana has spiked over the past couple of weeks. Infectious Disease Specialist Pam Whitney says 131 new influenza cases were reported the last week of December.

“To season, which started September 1st in Montana, we have had 274 cases,” Whitney said. “There have been about 35 cases in Missoula. Missoula County has had more than any other county. For Montana, we have had 19 hospitalizations and we have had two deaths attributed to influenza. I don’t think we have seen the real brunt of this yet. That is yet to come.”

Whitney was happy to report that this year’s flu vaccine has been more successful than the vaccine that was used last year.

“What we are seeing now is an influenza A and it is the subtype H1N1, which is always easier to find an exact match with the vaccine,” Whitney said. “With H3N2, which is what we saw last year, it is more difficult to get an exact match with that subtype because that one likes to shift, drift, and change. It is a lot more severe.”

Whitney predicts that the number of flu cases will continue to rise over the next couple of weeks. She urges everyone to get their flu shot if they have not already done so. Once you get the shot, it takes two weeks for your body to be protected.