With the advent of fall, healthcare providers want the public to know they have a full supply of flu vaccines on hand for patients of all ages.

Sarah Heineman, the the Immunization and Travel Clinic Nursing Supervisor at the Missoula City-County Health Department, said that things are different with the flu shot now than they used to be.

"The recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia is that healthcare providers should start providing flu shots as soon as they are available," Heineman said. "We definitely have a variety of flu vaccines here at the health department. You can get the typical flu shot, or we have the flu mist for those who are nervous around needles, and for the first year, we're carrying the high dose flu shot for those 65 and older."

Heineman said the flu shot can take anywhere from 10 days to two weeks to begin providing protection from the virus. Those who contract the flu should take certain precautions.

"The flu is a respiratory illness, so you should treat your symptoms," Heineman said. "You should stay home, drink plenty of fluids, and if other chronic conditions complicate your [flu] condition, you should contact your healthcare provider right away."

Flu vaccines are available at drugstores and clinics and doctors' offices all over Missoula, as well as at the Missoula County Health Department. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.

Heineman said more information is available at the health department website, by calling 258-4745, or by visiting the clinic at 301 West Alder in downtown, Missoula.

Missoula City-County Health Department Nurse Sarah Heineman