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Big Horn County youth identified as state's first pediatric flu death

DPHHS: More Montanans seeking public assistance due to COVID-19 outbreak
Posted at 3:33 PM, Jan 09, 2024

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported Tuesday the state's first child death from influenza of the season, a Big Horn County resident under the age of 18.

It's the 11th total influenza-related death in Montana as of Jan. 5, according to the agency.

The last flu-related pediatric death in Montana happened during the last flu season in 2022-23 when one youth died.

Authorities did not release any other information about the most recent flu victim, such as age or when the death occurred.

Montana is currently experiencing widespread influenza activity with cases and outbreaks reported in 49 of the 56 counties (88%).

Montana reported 5,759 confirmed cases of influenza and 304 influenza-related hospitalizations between October 1, 2023, and December 30, 2023. Current data for influenza can be found on the new Montana Influenza Dashboard available at []

The agency also warned that COVID-19 is circulating widely in the state. Between Oct. 1, 2023, and Dec. 30, 2023, 9,094 COVID-19 cases have been reported, including 530 hospitalizations and 55 deaths. Montanans of all age groups have been getting ill due to COVID-19; however, individuals over the age of 60 years have higher rates of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.

The number of people ill due to respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continues to increase across the state. DPHHS has launched an online dashboard [] with current data for each condition. Visit [] to view the latest information.

Vaccination remains the best form of protection against serious outcomes of these diseases, such as hospitalization or death due to infection. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems and other chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease) are at greatest risk for hospitalization and death due to infection, but healthy children and adults can still experience severe disease.

Vaccines are available for COVID-19, influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, and RSV. To find vaccine locations, visit [], or contact your local health department or health care provider.

  • Updated COVID-19 vaccines are available for Montanans ages six months and older.
  • Several flu vaccines are available for Montanans ages 6 months and older. One dose offers protection for the full season (October – June).
  • Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against a deadly form of bacterial pneumonia, which is the most serious form of pneumococcal disease. Older persons and those with chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, existing lung disease) are at higher risk for contracting this disease and experiencing serious health outcomes.
  • Adults 60 years and older are eligible to receive RSV vaccines after discussion with their health care provider.
  • Infants and young children under 24 months old may be eligible to receive a monoclonal antibody product that offers protection from severe RSV infection.

Montanans are encouraged to consult with a health care provider to determine their recommended vaccine options heading into this respiratory season.

In addition to vaccination, Montanans can take everyday precautions to help stop the spread of respiratory illness. Those precautions include:

  • Stay home if you are experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness. If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours until after the fever is gone without the use of fever reducing medication, unless you need to seek medical care.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in it.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth with your inner elbow or a disposable tissue anytime you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid contact with people experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness.

Symptoms of COVID-19, flu, RSV, and other respiratory illnesses are similar and may include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, body aches, and low energy. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with your medical provider. Your provider may recommend that you get tested to confirm a diagnosis. Antiviral medications are available for certain individuals with influenza or COVID-19 infections.

Anyone experiencing symptoms such as trouble breathing, shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new onset of confusion or disorientation, inability to stay awake, or other severe or concerning symptoms should seek immediate medical evaluation.