HELENA – Montana health officials report that flu activity is increasing in the Treasure State.
The Department of Public Health and Human Services weekly report shows the state has now seen its first reported influenza outbreak of the 2018-2019 season.
According to the report, the outbreak occurred in a hospital setting and comes as state health officials say the flu virus has become active in at least two regions in the state.
There were 51 new cases reported for the week ending on December 22 bringing the total number of cases this season to 144 — with 13 hospitalizations and two deaths.
Influenza has now been reported been reported in 24 counties with the most common influenza subtype identified this season is Influenza A H1N1 (2009).
Missoula County leads the state with 27 reported flu cases so far this season with Cascade County reporting 18 cases and Lewis and Clark County following with 17. However, Gallatin and Glacier counties saw the highest number of new cases over the last reporting period.
(December 3, 2018) The passing of a 6-year-old Missoula girl has been confirmed as the state’s first influenza-related death of the 2018-2019 flu season.
The Missoula City-County Health Department, along with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, have confirmed 6-year-old Allison Eaglespeaker passed away on Saturday, December 1 due to the flu.
The young girl was admitted to the hospital on Friday night, according to her mother Crystal White Shield.
Crystal said in a Facebook post that her daughter was quickly moved to the ICU due to a combination of the flu, pneumonia, and asthma.
Allison was a kindergartner at Russell Elementary School.
Teachers and staff offered support for students on Monday who have questions about Allison and simply about the loss of a life.
Missoula County Public Schools spokesperson Hatton Littman said support is different for young kids compared to some of the older high school students.
MCPS also encourages parents to talk about grief and loss if students have questions.
Nationwide, the CDC reports there have been five flu-related pediatric deaths so far this season.
In Montana, the last flu-related pediatric death occurred during the 2017-2018 influenza season when one child under the age of 18 died.
Health officials said influenza activity is currently at low levels in Montana. However, this is expected to change in the coming weeks.
This season, there have been 36 cases and six hospitalizations reported in Montana. This includes twelve cases and one influenza-related hospitalization in Missoula County.
Last season, more than 10,000 cases, 979 hospitalizations and 79 deaths were reported across Montana, including seven deaths in Missoula County.
In Montana, influenza activity increases in December and peaks in January and February.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help Allison’s family with funeral costs.
-Reported by Kent Luetzen/MTN News