Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Montana has notched its first fatality from the first days of the annual flu season, according to officials from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services in Helena.

KGVO News spoke to DPHHS Communicable Disease Epidemiologist Sam Saycich on Thursday, who provided details of the first flu season fatality that occurred in Cascade County.

The First Reported Flu Death of the Season was in Cascade County

“We do have our first confirmed flu death of this season,” began Saycich. “It is unusually early in the season to have a flu death. We normally experience a death later in the season or about halfway through in late November or even late December, so this death did occur last week. The patient did also have multiple co-morbidities, which we know with respiratory illness can lead to more severe health outcomes, so it's just a good reminder to get out and get vaccinated and help protect the ones around you.”

This Tragic News Should Encourage Families to get their Flu Vaccinations

DPHHS Immunization Sector Supervisor Trisha Gardner said the tragic first flu fatality should encourage all Montanans to get the annual flu vaccine as soon as possible.

“As indicated, this is pretty early in the season to see a death related to flu, so we do recommend everybody go out and get vaccinated for that,” said Gardner. “Those flu vaccines are widely available from pharmacies to your local health department to your provider and everyone six months and up should be getting vaccinated against flu.”

Gardner said both the flu and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) have specific vaccines available through your local health provider. She pointed out some improvements in vaccines against RSV.

“This year is unique in that we have some extra or some new options for RSV,” she said. “There is now a monoclonal antibody that can be given to infants within the first eight months of their life, or even further than that, they can get it up to 19 months. If they may have co-morbidities or conditions that put them at higher risk in a, you through a second season of RSV.”

The Classic Symptom of the Flu feels 'Like Being Hit by a Bus'

Since this story is primarily about the first flu death in the state, Saycich described the classic symptoms of the flu.

“For influenza, we usually see symptoms develop around two days after someone's exposure, and it's going to be really sudden,” said Saycich. “Some people will liken it to being hit by a bus, they say, so symptoms are really abrupt and fast, and it's going to be pretty similar to COVID-19, without that loss of taste or smell, so that's why it's important to get tested if you are experiencing respiratory symptoms, just because it could be a variety of different conditions.”

Get more details about the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services website.

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