Information on Infectious Diseases and Prevention for this Fall Season

Fall season is approaching in Dawson County and historically, this is a time when infectious diseases rise in our area. Dawson County Health Department (DCHD) and Glendive Medical Center (GMC) have teamed together to answer the most frequently asked questions concerning Monkeypox, Covid-19, and Influenza. We will also list resources at DCHD, GMC, and in the community for vaccinations.

“With the onset of monkeypox cases in our state and flu season coming upon us, we felt sharing information on the diseases would be beneficial for our community,” stated Laureen Murphree, Director of Dawson County Health Department. MJ Marx, Director of Quality at Glendive Medical Center added, “We are fortunate that cases for Covid-19 have declined since July but we typically see a rise all infectious diseases happen in October, so we would like to provide good information and treatment and prevention options to everyone ahead of time.”

Monkeypox – Monkeypox is a rare viral infection transmitted through close, personal contact, including kissing, sex, and other skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact. It does not spread easily between people without close contact.

Key Symptoms: Symptoms include fever & headaches, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, respiratory symptoms, bumps, blisters, or rash. The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. It may also look like other common skin rashes, or syphilis or herpes. The rash, bumps, and blisters may be located on or near the genitals but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. Most infections last 2-4 weeks and resolve without specific treatment. The type of monkeypox seen in this outbreak is rarely fatal, and more than 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive.

If you have new or unexplained rash or other symptoms: Avoid close contact, including sex or being intimate with anyone, until you have been checked out by a healthcare provider.

Treatment: Many individuals infected with Monkeypox virus have a mild, self-limiting disease without treatment, lasting 2-4 weeks.

Testing: If lesions are present, swabbing will be done for testing.

Vaccination: A fully FDA approved vaccine is available for smallpox and monkeypox usage. Vaccine eligibility depends on multiple factors including, people who are aware that one of their sexual partners from the past 2 weeks have received a monkeypox diagnosis, and individuals that report anonymous sex, group sex/sex with multiple partners in the past two weeks in association with certain events, venues, or geographical areas in which monkeypox transmission has been reported.

Cases in Montana: Currently, there are 5 reported cases of monkeypox in Montana.

Covid-19 – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. However, some will become seriously ill and require medical attention. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. Anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age.

Key Symptoms: Symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

When to seek emergency medical attention: If you have trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake; or pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone. Please call 911 or GMC Emergency Room at 406-345-3314 if you experience these symptoms.

Treatment: Taking medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can reduce fever. Staying hydrated with plenty of rest will also aid in recovery for mild symptoms. Vitamins such as Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin D are recommended. The FDA has authorized certain antiviral medications and monoclonal antibodies to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in people who are more likely to get very sick. Don’t delay: Treatment must be started within days of when you first develop symptoms to be effective. To determine eligibility for monoclonal antibodies, call Urgent Care at 406-345-8901. If you test positive, current CDC quarantine regulations state you may end isolation after day 5 if you had no symptoms but continue to wear a mask until day 10. If you have 2 negative tests within 48 hours after day 5, you don’t need to wear a mask. If you had symptoms, you may end isolation after day 5 if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving but continue to wear a mask until day 10. If you have 2 negative tests within 48 hours after day 5, you don’t need to wear a mask.

Testing: At home tests are available in limited supply at DCHD. They are available for purchase at the local pharmacies.A nasopharyngeal test may be administered at GMC during a scheduled appointment to determine positivity.Call Urgent Care at 406-345-3311 to schedule an appointment.

Vaccination: Recently, the FDA amended the emergency use authorizations of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to authorize bivalent formulations of the vaccines for use as a single booster dose at least two months following primary or booster vaccination. The bivalent vaccines, which are referred to as “updated boosters,” contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other one in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 12 years of age and older. The monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are no longer authorized as booster doses for individuals 12 years of age and older. Appointments for monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna boosters in people 12 years of age and older must be rescheduled for when locations have the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines available

1st and 2nd dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available at DCHD by calling 406-377-5213. Children ages 5-11 can receive the 1st and 2nd doses of vaccine by appointment only. Vaccine clinics with both vaccines are held 2nd Friday of each month at GMC. To make an appointment for the vaccine clinic at GMC, please call 406-345-8901. Albertson’s provides vaccines as well. Information will be shared about the availability of the updated Covid-19 boosters in our county once available.

Cases in Dawson County: We have seen a drastic decrease in cases since July. We are currently at 8 cases.

Influenza – Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. There are two main types of influenza viruses: Types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.

Key Symptoms: Symptoms include fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, possible vomiting, or diarrhea (typically more common in children). The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about 2 days but can range from about 1 to 4 days.

When to seek emergency medical attention: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (rapid breathing in children), persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse, seizures, dehydration/not urinating, severe muscle pain, severe weakness or unsteadiness, fever or cough that improve but then return and worsen, worsening chronic medical conditions, fever above 104°F, any fever in children younger than 12 weeks.

Treatment: There are influenza antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. Check with your doctor promptly if you are at higher risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms. People at higher risk of flu complications include young children, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant people, and people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

Testing: Several tests are available to detect flu viruses in respiratory specimens. The most common are called “rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs).” RIDTs work by detecting the parts of the virus (antigens) that stimulate an immune response. These tests can provide results within approximately 10-15 minutes but may not be as accurate as other flu tests. Therefore, you could still have flu, even though your rapid test result is negative. Other flu tests called “rapid molecular assays” detect genetic material of the flu virus. Rapid molecular assays produce results in 15-20 minutes and are more accurate than RIDTs.

Vaccination: Flu vaccines are available at DCHD, GMC (by appointment at 406-345-8901), and the local grocery stores each year from typically early October through March. DCHD will be holding a flu vaccine drive thru event on September 21 from 2pm-5:30pm at the EPEC. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death.

Cases in Dawson County: Currently there are no cases of flu in Dawson County. Cases for influenza typically arise in December with a spike in February.

As the days get shorter and cooler, there are everyday strategies you can do to help prevent disease and improve your health: Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song), visit your doctor for preventative services and regular checkups, get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, substitute water for sugary or alcoholic drinks and reduce calories; move more and sit less – at least 150 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic activity plus muscle strengthening activities 2 days a week; eat healthy foods including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and low fat dairy; unwind by taking deep breaths, stretching, meditating, or doing an activity you enjoy; connect with people you trust about how you are feeling and express gratitude; brush your teeth twice a day, and avoid substances like tobacco.

To schedule an appointment with a provider for preventative services or regular checkups, please contact GMC at 406-345-8901. For information on disease prevention and vaccinations, please contact DCHD at 1-406-377-5213.