Local and state public health officials are seeing a significant increase in the number of confirmed influenza cases being reported across the state. As of last Friday, almost every county and tribal health department has reported cases to the state health department.

"Essentially what we're seeing is an increase that is pretty much across the state," Carl Milham with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said. "The increases resemble the last couple of years. You have influenza across the country and in Montana that function at a low level and then it sort of catches fire. When it does, it will rise very dramatically over a three, four, five, six week period to a peak, and we appear to be in the early stages of that."

Milam said DPHHS is also seeing an increase in hospitalizations. Immunization Nurse Consultant Susan Reeser said the best protection against influenza continues to be vaccination.

"We always like to say your best protection is to get your flu shot and flu shots are recommended for everyone six months of age and older," Reeser said. "While the vaccine may work less well against the drifted virus, they still can offer protection, reduce illness, doctor visits and missed days at work and school."

Other recommendations that are being stressed include staying home when you are sick, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and washing your hands often.

For more information, visit the MT DPHHS website.