MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It seems a far cry from those dreary winter days when the flu bug is biting, but under September’s sunshine, the influenza season is on the minds of many as they walk down Nicollet Mall.

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Karen Duerr was quick to point out Monday that she has already received her flu shot.

“It was convenient,” she said. “I was at the doctor’s office, and I thought I’d get it done while I was there.”

She’s not alone. At Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, hundreds of health care workers were rolling up their sleeves and breathing in. Some got the vaccine in the form of a flu mist through their nose, while others opted for the more conventional shot in the upper arm.

Allina Health expects to immunize 17,000 members of its hospitals and clinics staff.

Dr. Ashley Newberry is an infectious disease specialist and was among those getting immunized.

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“The flu is very unpredictable,” she said “and we can see sporadic cases before we see the big boom of influenza season.”

This season’s strain is a combination of H1N1, H1N3 and influenza B. According to the Centers for Disease Control, those are the types of influenza most likely to infect the United States this year.

Newberry says, contrary to what some think, the vaccine is no less effective the earlier you get vaccinated. It will protect you from infection well through the peak season, typically December through February.

“It can take up to two weeks before you become protected from influenza after you’ve had the vaccine, and you never know when it’s going to start,” Newberry said. “We recommend as soon as it becomes available you take it.”

The flu mist delivery method can be given to healthy individuals ages 2 through 49. It can have undesirable effects on those with chronic heart and lung diseases, asthma and compromised immune systems. The traditional injection method is appropriate for those of any age.

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While last season’s influenza vaccine produced less than optimum protection for many who were vaccinated, getting protection remains the best shot at staying influenza free.