Flu Season and Vaccine Information

The Flu

In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. While influenza (flu) viruses circulate year-round, most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, but activity can last as late as May.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. For some people, flu is a mild illness that leads to missed time from family, work and school. For others, it can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Every year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and tens of thousands die, including young children.

The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccination (flu shot) every year. The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get a flu shot.

The flu and COVID-19

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses→. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.

While more is learned every day, there is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it. This table→​ compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.

CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever.


Flu symptoms can last anywhere from 5 to 10 days, and include some or all of the following:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children than adults)


Though the flu can make people feel pretty lousy, the vast majority of otherwise healthy people will recover from the flu at home with self-care:

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Treat fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen (do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age)
  • Stay home until at least 24 hours after you are free of a fever without taking fever-reducing medications

Should I see a doctor?

Use this Decision Chart to help decide when to seek medical care:

· English

· Spanish

How influenza is spread

Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person by coughing, sneezing, talking or singing. Sometimes people can become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Getting vaccinated, covering coughs and sneezes, and handwashing are good preventative measures.

Flu vaccination

Anyone, even healthy people can get the flu. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated. The CDC recommends flu shots for everyone 6 months of age and older.

Where to Get Vaccinated

People at Risk for Flu Complications

The following groups of people are more likely to experience serious complications from the flu that can lead to hospitalization or even death. If you have one of these conditions it is especially important to get vaccinated against the flu:

  • People with chronic medical complications like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and stroke
  • Age 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Young children
  • Cancer
  • Children with neurologic conditions

Wellchild appointments 

Going back to school is a lot different this year, but one thing hasn’t changed: keeping your child or teenager up-to-date on their yearly visit to the doctor is one of the best ways you can make sure they’re healthy, safe and ready to learn.

Your child may have missed a doctor’s visit or fallen behind on vaccinations during COVID-19 — but that’s okay! Doctors’ offices and clinics are open, safe, and ready to help your family catch up.

Learn which vaccines your child needs, and make a plan to catch up if needed!

Vaccines are important. They protect babies, kids and entire communities from harmful diseases. And with flu season around the corner, this year it’s more important than ever to make sure your whole family gets the flu vaccine. 

Vaccine schedules list the age when each vaccine is recommended. They are developed by doctors and disease experts, and provide the most protection from diseases while keeping the timing of vaccines safe.

When Should Children get a Flu Vaccine

Children should be vaccinated every flu season for the best protection against flu. For most children, it is good practice to get them vaccinated by the end of October. However, getting vaccinated later can still be protective, as long as flu viruses are circulating. While seasonal flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, during most seasons flu activity peaks between December and February. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to develop antibodies against flu virus infection, it is best that people get vaccinated so they are protected before influenza begins spreading in their community. Some children will need two doses of flu vaccine. Those children should get the first dose as early in the season as possible.

Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger→

6 questions to ask your doctor

Your doctor or clinic is trained to work with you on a vaccine plan that will protect your child from harmful diseases. If you don't know which vaccines your child needs or you want more information, talking to your doctor can help.

Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  1. Which vaccines does my child need now?
  2. Which vaccines does my child need in the next year?
  3. Can you help me make a plan for my child to catch up on vaccines?
  4. Can I schedule appointments now for the next vaccines my child needs?
  5. Can I have a list of all of the vaccines that my child needs in order to enter daycare, preschool or kindergarten?
  6. How will my child feel after receiving the vaccines? Are there any side effects? Is there anything I can do to prepare my child before our visit?

Vaccine safety

Influenza vaccines have a very good safety track record. Over the years, Americans have received hundreds of millions of doses of seasonal flu vaccine. The discomfort and possible serious complications from flu are far greater than any risks that come from the vaccine. More about vaccine safety.

Everyday Prevention

To help reduce your risk of getting and spreading the flu, use these everyday disease prevention practices:

Wash your hands

  • Washing your hands often helps protect you from germs.
  • Use soap and warm water. Wash for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.  You can tell if the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol by looking at the product label.  You can find these products in most supermarkets and drugstores.
  • If the hand sanitizer is a gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel does not need water to work; the alcohol kills the germs on your hands.

Take everyday precautions

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your arm when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Clean work and household surfaces often.
  • Wear a mask if you have a weakened immune system.
  • Ask your family, friends and health providers to get a flu vaccination.
  • Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
  • Manage any chronic conditions.

Quit smoking

People who smoke get the flu more easily and get sicker from the virus. This is also true of people who breathe secondhand smoke, especially children and senior citizens. Contact the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

More ways to protect yourself and your family (CDC resources):

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Columbia County Public Health is committed to improving the quality of life and protecting the health and well-being of all residents by addressing social, economic, and environmental conditions. Our goal is to ensure that all people in Columbia County have the opportunity for a healthy life.