Remember back in 2020, when your holiday plans were scrambled by the pandemic? You didn't know whether to risk getting together with family or friends or perhaps you were one of the Montanans who were already fed up with lockdowns and threw caution to the wind by going to that party.

Fast forward 3-years and the holiday health landscape is a much different affair.

However, the Centers for Disease Control are still encouraging caution for a variety of viruses this winter. And state officials say they're already seeing a rise in the number of flu cases.

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This week, the non-profit CDC Foundation is reminding people to take precautions for the holidays, especially if they're dealing with cancer or another acute illness. The CDC says large gatherings, crowded travel, and spending time inside increases the risk of the latest varieties of COVID, but also flu and RSV.

That starts with vaccination

First and foremost, the CDC Foundation says everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.

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The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is reporting flu cases in Montana are climbing, even before we started to get together in groups for this past Thanksgiving weekend. Flu case rates started to climb around the first of November and really took off between November 11th and the 18th, with 46 cases that last reporting week. That gives Montana nearly 300 reported flu cases through November 18th.

That's actually better than last year, when DPHHS reported nearly twice as many flu cases, leading to a sharp peak in early December.

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Cancer patients should be especially cautious

The CDC Foundation says "Having cancer or having a history of cancer can make you more likely to get very sick from COVID-19". They say that "although vaccinated people sometimes get infected with the virus", it still lowers the risk for people with weakened immune systems to be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.

Additionally, the Foundation says people with cancer should also "watch out for a fever" and other signs they might have been infected.

And one thing that hasn't changed from 2020? The advice is to make sure you wash your hands, cover your mouth when coughing and stay home if you're sick, including bypassing those holiday gatherings. 

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Gallery Credit: Katherine Gallagher

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