An early outbreak of influenza in Montana has hit six counties including Missoula, Madison, Lewis and Clark, Broadwater, and Beaverhead. According to Montana DPHHS epidemiologist Jim Murphy, there are now two strains of influenza in the state and Missoula has seen a majority of the cases.

"With influenza A, it looks like it has been brought into Montana a little earlier than usual, so we are off to an early start. There were a few cases of Influenza B earlier this summer, influenza B is less severe and it looks like maybe that didn't go entirely away."

State authorities are asking the public to get the flu shot early too. Last year’s flu shot did not include coverage for some of the most common strains of the season, but Immunization Specialist Bekki Wehner says the Center for Disease Control is pretty confident that that problem won’t happen this year.

"It is really early in the season to tell for sure, but based on last years results, we know we have a little bit of drift in one of the strains that caused a little less protection than we would have liked, Wehner said. "The CDC is pretty confident that they have made an adjustment for that drift and that the vaccine is going to have better coverage this year than last year."

According to Murphy, influenza A typically hits Montana in late October followed by influenza B, he said it was “unusual” to have cases of both this early, but it could just be a matter of better detection.