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Tribal Health shares influenza information

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FLATHEAD INDIAN RESERVATION — Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.

In Montana, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. The peak season is usually from late November through March.

The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated each year. Tribal Health patients can walk in for a flu shot at the following health centers: Arlee, St. Ignatius, Ronan, SKC, Polson, Elmo and Hot Springs. Patients can also make an appointment for a flu shot, or request one during other regularly scheduled appointments. Additionally, same-day flu tests are available at any Tribal Health Center.

Flu symptoms

Flu viruses infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever (note that not everyone with flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

How flu spreads

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.

Period of contagiousness

You may be able to pass on flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time.

Onset of symptoms

The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about two days, but can range from about one to four days.

Complications of flu

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

People at high risk from flu

Anyone can get flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years.

Preventing seasonal flu

The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. Tribal Health also recommends everyday preventive actions, (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent hand washing), to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.

Call Tribal Health at 406-745-3525 to make an appointment for your flu shot today.

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