ASTORIA - Flu season is here again, and the Clatsop County Public Health Department is urging you to take steps now to protect yourself from the illness.

Influenza is caused by a virus spread person-to-person, through the air and on hard surfaces in droplets from sneezes and coughs. Illness from the flu can last up to 10 days and include such symptoms as sneezing, coughing, runny nose, congestion, fever, muscle aches and headache.

For some people, the flu can be a very serious and even deadly disease, which could lead to secondary infections such as pneumonia. Every flu season is different, and influenza can affect people differently. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.

Each year, scientists determine the three flu strains that are likely to cause the most disease and include them in the flu vaccination for that season. The 2011-12 seasonal flu shot protects against the same strains as last year, but people who had a flu vaccination last year should also get a seasonal flu shot this year, as immunity may have worn off.

Seasonal flu vaccine is manufactured by strict federal standards and thoroughly tested before it is offered to the public.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid catching the flu virus, and is the best way to protect yourself and your community from illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone aged 6 months and older receive an annual influenza vaccination. Children 6 months through 8 years may need two doses depending on previous flu vaccine history, so it is important to talk to your provider.

A seasonal flu vaccination is especially recommended for people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, people living or caring for babies six months and younger or people who are unable to be vaccinated because of health reasons, and all health care workers.

These preventive measures can help stop flu and other diseases from circulating:

· Cover your cough and sneeze.

· Wash your hands often. Use soap and warm water.

· Stay home when you're sick. Protect others at school and work by staying home at least 24 hours after a fever (100+ degrees) subsides.

· Clean surfaces. Flu germs can live for hours on hard surfaces. Make sure your home and workspace is wiped down frequently, especially where children are playing.

Clatsop County Public Health has flu vaccine available by appointment for children 6 months and older and adults. Shots are $30 for regular vaccine and $44 for high-dose vaccine. Some insurance can billed, and vaccine can be made available at reduced or no cost for those without insurance or who otherwise cannot afford it. For more information and to set up an appointment, call (503) 325-8500.

To locate other flu shot clinics near you, visit or call the Oregon Flu Hotline at 1-800-978-3040.