The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said on Thursday that 156 Montanans have been hospitalized for influenza-related illness since Oct. 1.
"Many of these hospitalizations could have been prevented since a majority of these people were not vaccinated against influenza," Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Richard Opper said. "However, it's not too late to get the vaccine. It's readily available in Montana."
DPHHS said 139 of the hospitalizations occurred since Dec. 15.
In 2013, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Opper released "Big Sky. New Horizons.," a new plan to improve the health of state residents. Included in the plan is an increase in the number of people who receive vaccinations from 34 percent to 60 percent. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that less than half of Americans received a flu vaccination during the 2012-2013 flu season.
"Influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons older than age six months," Bekki Wehner, the DPHHS immunization program supervisor, said. "It's the best way to prevent influenza."
The CDC reported that the same H1N1 strain is causing the majority of flu cases; the same strain was prevalent in 2009.
Wehner said people that are high risk for flu-related hospitalization include adults 65 years of age or older, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions.