Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - A surprising statement regarding flu cases came late last week from Pam Whitney, Registered Nurse with the Missoula City-County Health Department, who is a specialist in Infectious Diseases.

KGVO News was following up on a conversation with Whitney on January 12, where she stated that ‘without more people getting the flu vaccine when the flu season reaches its apex in February, we’ll see numbers higher than we’ve ever seen’.

Missoula County Residents Listened to the Health Department and got the Flu Shot

Well, it looks like Missoula County residents took that advice to heart, because in a follow up interview with Nurse Whitney late last week, the numbers of flu cases and hospitalizations are indeed down; way down.

“I pulled up a graph with the data that goes through the very last of January,” began Whitney. “January 28 was just last week, and it is a perfect bell curve. Now normally we do have a peak in February through the end of February, but when I look at this curve, this peak was the week right before Christmas. In addition, the state graph looks just like Missoula’s graph that in the past three weeks my (flu case) numbers have been in the single digits.”

The Good News was Tempered with the Report of One More Flu Death in Missoula

Whitney said the news was bittersweet because even though the overall flu case numbers are way down, one patient in Missoula did die from the flu.

“It almost appears that our hospitalizations are way down, but we did have one death this month, which is our first for Missoula County, and it was in an adult age 18 to 64, and that's the only information I can give you. However, we really are mimicking the state which is mimicking the nation, and but if the numbers stay like they are, we're pretty much out of the woods.”

Whitney said the numbers could change and Missoula County could experience another spike in flu cases, but she is heartened that flu cases have decreased dramatically.

“I don't know if we'll see a ‘bimodal distribution’ which could be two peaks,” she said. “Right now it's hard to say, but for those of us who have not gotten their flu shot, it's not too late. With that in mind, it's looking really promising that this (the end of the flu season) might be it.”

When asked the reason why flu cases have fallen so dramatically, she gave the following reasons: mask-wearing and getting the flu shot.

Do you Think More People are Wearing Masks due to Flu Danger?

"People are still wearing masks,” she said. “I think that has been huge, plus we had a real good turnout for the flu vaccine so far and people are still coming in and we still have clinics going on and on with the flu vaccine. But also masking is still happening. People still don't want to get COVID, however, the way that the mask is protecting them against COVID is also protecting them against picking up influenza. So those two together really, that's what's helped us more this year than any year in the past.”

Flu shots are still available free of charge at most pharmacies and through your health care providers.

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