BILLINGS, Mont. -

State health officials are urging Montana residents to get flu shots this year.

As incentive, they're offering these statistics from last year: There were more than 10,500 laboratory-confirmed or suspected cases of flu during the 2012-13 influenza season, 361 people were hospitalized and the deaths of 15 people were directly attributed to the flu.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services says for every reported case there are three to five that go unreported.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that usually comes on suddenly and may include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches.

DPHHS Director Richard Opper tells The Billings Gazette that the vaccine protects the recipient and prevents them from spreading the virus to others who might be more vulnerable.