The Clatsop County Public Health Department is monitoring a large number of confirmed influenza cases and as a result is urging the public to follow preventative health steps.

Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness that is most commonly spread through coughing and sneezing.

While most people who contract it experience no more than fever, chills, aches, cough and congestion, the county health department said influenza causes 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths nationwide each year, mostly among people with other health issues.

The public can prevent the spread of influenza by simple steps such as hand-washing and getting a flu vaccine.

Vaccines for children and adults are usually available at many locations around the county. The Clatsop County Public Health Department also offers vaccines during flu season, generally September through March.

To find out where to get a flu vaccine, the public can contact their health provider or local pharmacy, or call Clatsop County Public Health at (503) 325-8500.