Deschutes County Health Services is seeing an increase in flu cases in Central Oregon. The flu vaccine is the most effective way to avoid getting sick from the flu virus, and the best way to protect yourself and your community from illness. In addition to vaccination, you can take these measures to help prevent and stop the spread of flu:

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

• Cover your cough and sneeze.

• Wash your hands with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Clean surfaces often, especially where children are playing. Flu germs can live for hours on hard surfaces.

Flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. It is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with flu will have a fever); fatigue (tiredness); muscle or body aches; cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; headaches; some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

If you get sick, rest and get plenty of fluids. See a doctor if you are concerned about your illness; take antivirals if they are prescribed to you; and stay home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone age six months and older receive an annual influenza vaccination. Flu vaccine is available through local healthcare providers as well as most pharmacies (for people seven years and older). Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to determine the right vaccine for you.

Deschutes County Health Services is also offering the flu vaccine for children six months to 18 years old. Call 541-322-7400 to schedule a flu vaccine appointment for your child.

Deschutes County Health Services begins tracking flu in October each year. The agency analyzes data from local hospital emergency departments and laboratories each week during flu season to better inform the community about flu trends. To access the weekly flu surveillance report go to: www.deschutes.org/flu.