It may seem a bit early, but many health care providers are already offering flu shots in the Missoula area.

Supervisor for Immunization services at the Missoula City County Health Department, Sara Heineman, said nationally, health officials are encouraging patients to get their flu shots early in the season.

"The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) changed their recommendations over the past couple of years," Heineman said. "Instead of waiting until the middle of fall to get vaccinated, to start watching for vaccine to be available and as soon as possible to get their flu shot. I've noticed that in Missoula, flu vaccine seems to be trickling in to some of the local providers and pharmacies, and we're hoping to be able to offer that by the end of this week, if not the beginning of the following week. So, the recommendation is that you get your flu vaccine as soon as it's available."

Heineman said the vaccine should be sturdy enough to last through the entire flu season.

"The thing with flu vaccine is that it has only three or four strains of flu in it, so if that's not the strain you come in contact with you can still get sick," she continued. "The vaccine manufacturers work hard to include the strains they think will be circulating, so they'll offer the best protection."

Heineman said one of the advantages of the Affordable Care Act was that flu vaccinations are fully covered in each policy.

"For those that do have insurance, the flu vaccinations are paid for," she said. "But, for those who are not insured they would meet some of the qualifications for state funded vaccines, and we can get state funded vaccines for them."