MISSOULA, Mont. - Public health officials say the flu is a killer, and they are urging everybody to get the flu shot this year.
"There were 95 pediatric deaths in the U.S. last year," said Pam Whitney, a registered nurse at the Missoula City-County Health Department.
The CDC warns the flu is starting early and spreading a number of strains.
"One nuance about the flu shot this year is that the CDC recommends everybody get a flu shot this year. There are a lot of different variances this year," said Curry Health Center Pharmacy manager Kenneth Chatriand.
The warnings have many people convinced.
"It could lead to other stuff if you don't stop it," said Missoula resident Wally Symons.
"My opinion is that the flu shot works really well and is far better than getting ill. I always encourage everybody I work with to get their flu shots as well," said Missoula resident Dale Kindred.
Public health officials say the flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and keep the virus from infecting people who may not survive it.
"That helps with individuals who can't get the vaccine, like babies under six months of age and older people or people with allergies. If they can't be vaccinated the best thing to do is to is for all of us to get vaccinated. So, therefore, we are protecting them," said Whitney.
Others question whether the flu vaccine covers the active strains of the virus that, many agree, mutate each year.
Katie Fortune is a mother of two in Missoula. She tells NBC Montana her family all got the flu shot last year.
"Not only did my daughter get the flu anyway, but she went on to have one of the worst years of being sick that she has ever had. So I personally am not willing to risk the side effects that the flu shot can have for a seasonal solution that might not even work," said Fortune.
Fortune looks for alternatives from Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic physician.
"This year's flu is different from last year's flu. So it's unclear to me whether last year's flu is effective for this year's flu. I think people need to make a personal decision about the flu shot. So people, in my view, rather than just going and getting the flu shot and thinking 'Well OK, that took care of everything and now I can just go and do what I want to do," I think it's wiser to understand that we are moving into a season of a lot more exposure to illness, and we do things to make our bodies healthy and strong. Let's be smart and rational about it and make our bodies healthy and stronger by using healthy foods, by using some herbs, like elder, that help you strengthen yourself, by doing some extra nutrients, and therefore, making your body more resilient," said Starbuck.
We asked Fortune how she tries to protect vulnerable groups.
"Even with the flu shot you can still get the flu. You can still pass it on. I think the biggest thing is, if you have ill children, keep them home, wash your hands, try to stay away from those types of groups," said Fortune.
Starbuck tells patients getting the flu shot is a personal choice does not endanger you for long-lasting problems.
Chatriand says even if you get the flu anyway the shot can help reduce symptoms.
Even if the flu shot may not be a perfect match to what is circulating the CDC still urges everybody to get the shot. It does not provide a booster if the virus shifts or mutates. The CDC says the current dose will cover a person for a full year.