Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Without more people getting the flu vaccine, when the flu season reaches its apex in February, according to Pam Whitney, Infectious Disease Nurse at the Missoula City-County Health Department, ‘we’ll see numbers higher than we’ve ever seen’.

A Dire Prediction about the Ongoing Flu Season

KGVO News spoke with Whitney not long after serious warnings from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services about the alarming numbers statewide at the start of the flu season.

“We have the same concern,” said Whitney. “Since the end of September, when we started looking at the numbers through the end of December, we've seen a huge increase in the number of hospitalizations and the number of positive flu cases, I even did my own little study. I was looking at numbers because right at the beginning, all the clinics send us the names, the ages of anybody that tests positive for flu, and so I put everybody on the line list. And then I took the names off, but I was looking just at the ages and I'd say about almost 40 to 45 percent of these were children 18 and under.”

Whitney said 'The Numbers have been Huge'

Whitney said despite the high numbers of children infected, most of the flu hospitalizations have been those over 65.

“I haven't seen those numbers really in a long time that it was affecting the kids,” she said. “But we haven't had a lot of kids hospitalized. We have had mostly adults 65 and older or who are taken up the hospital beds. But usually, February is when we see the peak of the flu season and it continues to May, but we're not even there yet, and our numbers have been huge.”

It was at this point that Whitney made a startling prediction.

“If things don't change and people continue to refuse the vaccine, we're going to see numbers higher than we've ever seen,” she said. “The hospitals are going to be flooded because they're already burdened with flu cases and COVID cases. So, I don't see my work getting any easier if this continues at this rate.”

Whitney explained why vaccinations are so important at this time of year for flu, COVID, and RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus).

Whitney Calls it a 'Tripledemic' with Flu, COVID and RSV

“We’re seeing what we’re calling a ‘tripledemic’,” she said. “We’re seeing RSV we were seeing the flu and COVID. The flu vaccine and COVID can be given at the same time. The flu vaccine is safe. It's always a new composition. They always look at what's going on in the southern hemisphere when they put the vaccine together, which would have been last March, and especially the COVID vaccine for keeping people out of the hospital and that's what we've got to do.”

Whitney closed by saying ‘those of us who can get the vaccine should do so, in order to keep others out of the hospital’.

To make an appointment for a flu vaccination, call the Missoula City-County Health Department at 406-258-3896.

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