BOZEMAN, Mont. – After a year without one single confirmed case of the influenza virus in Montana, healthcare experts and providers are preparing for what might be a severe flu season.
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Jon Ebelt said for the 2020-21 influenza season, there were no laboratory confirmed positive tests for influenza in Montana.
According to Ebelt the report includes a total of 21,231 PCR tests processed at the State Public Health Laboratory in Helena. There were two rapid positive tests, but those did not confirm out at the State Public Health Lab.
Bozeman Health System Director of Laboratory Services said they can perform the Roche LIAT "rapid" test, a COVID/Flu combo test but they have a limited supply of LIAT rapid tests so the are performed on clinically significant patients at this time.
If it is a routine COVID only test it is performed on their Hologic Panther and in the future if a routine COVID only test is ordered, it will likely be up to the provider to determine if a flu test is needed.
Gallatin City-County Health Department's Communicable Disease and Vaccine Manager Jill Ellison believes some of the reasons for the zero reported cases is the emphasis on masking and cleaning efforts from the pandemic.
Ellison said their health department tested more for COVID than the flu in the past year.
I talked with several people around downtown Bozeman asking if they knew of anyone who had the flu and if they still plan to get a flu shot.
“I don’t think we do, we’ve been locked in our house for a year and a half,” Doug Swan said.
“No, I don’t know anyone who’s had the flu in the last year, I get my flu vaccine regularly and I’m planning on getting my flu vaccine this year," Deb Nagle said.
“I think we know people who have gotten sick and got tested for COVID and were negative so maybe that was just the flu, but it’s hard to say," Judy and Don Watts said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older with rare exceptions.
Bozeman Health urges people to get a flu shot to keep people out of the near-capacity hospital beds.
The Gallatin City-County Health Department will be offering two large walk-in clinics this year for anyone six months or older to get their flu vaccine.
Their clinics on Oct. 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Oct. 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.
This year’s vaccine provides protection against four flu viruses that are thought to be the most likely to circulate in the United States this year.
You can find more information on prices of flu vaccines and what to bring here.
Bozeman Health is offering both drive-thru and walk-in clinics for the flu vaccine this year that can be found here.
The Gallatin City-County Health Department said it is safe to get both the COVID-19 vaccine and the influenza vaccine at the same time, but they will focus on separate shot clinics, and add that you make sure you hold off on getting either shot if you are feeling sick.