Ravalli County Public Health is helping communities prepare for the upcoming flu season by offering flu vaccines to children, adults and seniors.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends vaccination against influenza for all people over 6 months of age by the end of October. The flu shot protects you and it protects those around you. Flu can be especially serious in seniors, young children, pregnant women and people with conditions like asthma and diabetes.

During the 2018-2019 influenza season, a total of 13,576 cases, 767 hospitalizations and 38 deaths (1 pediatric) due to influenza were reported from all but one county in Montana.

There were 569 reported cases in Ravalli County. Peak influenza activity occurred during the week ending February 23, 2019. The majority of influenza outbreaks were reported in long-term care facilities and schools.

“We only get reports on the individuals that go into the doctor and test positive for the flu," said Angelia Allen, Public Health Director for Ravalli County. "We can comfortably say we only see the tip of the iceberg for disease activity. This means that there is more flu activity occurring in our community than what the numbers report. The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get the influenza vaccine, practice good hand washing, and staying home when sick.”

Healthy children 6 months through 8 years of age getting flu vaccine for the first time should get two shots, one month apart.

A seasonal flu vaccine walk-in clinic will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, at the First Interstate Building at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds.

“We will be offering vaccines for everyone 6 months and older,” Allen said.

The clinic will also offer the high-dose flu vaccine for individuals 65 years and older.

“This vaccine is made with four times the amount of antigen, giving older adults a better immune response,” Allen said.

You can also call (406) 375-6672 to schedule an appointment at the Public Health office, located at 205 Bedford Street Suite L, Hamilton. Vaccinations by appointment are available Monday & Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-4:30 p.m. With Walk-in Wednesday from 1 to 4:30 p.m., no appointment is necessary.

Most insurance plans are accepted and pay full cost for the flu vaccine. Please check with your insurance company first to verify coverage. The cost for the seasonal flu vaccination without insurance is $10. The flu vaccine is free for Medicare recipients. Cash, check or insurance is accepted.