The Missoula City County Health Department has already reported a number of cases of the flu, according to Infectious Disease Specialist Bradley Applegate.

“The reports have been trickling in,” said Applegate. “The flu is a disease that we report to the state that occurs primarily in the fall, winter and spring. Some clinics in town have already given us a heads up that they’re starting to see some activity.”

Applegate said this year’s vaccine is specially tailored to combat the strains most likely to affect the population.

“The vaccine protects you from four different strains of the flu,” he said. “There are two ‘A’ strains and two ‘B’ strains. The vaccine is created based on what strains are being reported around the world, and they predict what we’ll be seeing here in America. The body creates an immune response and develops antibodies, and the vaccine lasts for about a year.”

Applegate said reactions to the flu vaccine are rare, but the symptoms of the flu are apparent.

“The basic symptoms are coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever, and feeling lethargic,” he said. “Many times the symptoms can be mistaken for the common cold, but either way, the patient should stay home and rest, drink lots of fluids and healthy foods and avoid contact with coworkers, schoolmates, or anyone who may be elderly or has a compromised immune system until the symptoms are gone.”

Flu shots are available at the Missoula City County Health Department, most pharmacies throughout the area and at many doctor’s offices.