MISSOULA — We're not even into October, and flu season has already begun.
Doctor's offices, public health care centers, and a Montana Mobile Outreach Clinic have plenty of vaccine, and they are urging you to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The first day of fall is synonymous with cooler temperatures, the changing of color of leaves, and more importantly -- the beginning of flu season.
The Missoula City-County Health Department is advising everyone over six months old to get the flu vaccine now.
“We've all gotten our flu vaccine in, we are definitely starting to vaccinate people with flu right now. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that really everyone ages 6-months to 105 gets vaccinated by the end of October," said Immunization Services Clinic Manager, Colleen Morris.
The end of October is an important date to the CDC because it takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to fully take effect. The deeper into fall we get, the closer we are to reaching the height of cases of influenza.
“The peak of flu season can vary anytime between December to February, but because of that wide variability, we just never know when cases are going to start popping up," Morris said.
She told MTN News that with the flu strain changing from year-to-year, it's hard to tell how bad this season will be. That's why she's encouraging all people from six months of age and up to get the vaccine now.
“We want you to be protected ahead of time. It won't do any good if you've already been exposed and then get a flu vaccine, and I think that's when people think it didn't work," Morris said.
Health care providers around the state have teamed up for the sixth straight year to reach those in rural communities through the use of the Care Van.
Care Van is a mobile outreach program, which holds 160 clinics around the state throughout flu season to get to those who can't get to the bigger communities that provide the vaccine.
"The Care Van helps our partners become mobile, and a Care Van Clinic runs just like it would if you were to go into the public health office or your doctor's office," said Care Van Program Specialist Kamille Kirchberg with Blue Cross & Blue Shield Montana.
The mobile clinic was in Clinton on Monday and will visit Bonner, Frenchtown, and Seeley Lake over the next three days.
Morris says that although the vaccine is not 100% effective those who get the vaccine and still contract the flu, will experience a much milder version.
Locations and times of the Care Van clinics:
- 9/24:Bonner clinic, 3-6pm, Bonner School Cafeteria, 9045 Hwy 200 East, Bonner
- 9/25: Frenchtown clinic, 3-6pm, Frenchtown Rural Fire Station 1, 16875 Marion Street, Frenchtown
- 9/26: Seeley Lake clinic, 3-6pm, Seeley Lake Rural Fire District, 200 Firehouse Drive, Seeley Lake