- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The flu season is off to an early start in Montana.

State health officials say confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in six counties in September: Yellowstone, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Beaverhead and Broadwater. Flu season usually begins in October.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services is urging residents to get their yearly vaccination. It takes two weeks for the shot to become fully effective.

Most of the early cases can be traced to someone who was exposed while traveling out of state, but some local transmission is now occurring.

Last season, the state recorded 608 hospitalizations and 24 deaths related to influenza.

Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone older than six months, especially people with compromised immune systems or chronic illnesses.

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