As state starts tracking seasonal influenza, health officials urge, don’t wait to get a flu shot

October 21, 2020

Flu season is coming.

As school, work and weather drive people indoors this fall and winter, health officials expect flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 to spread.

Get your flu shot early. It takes about 2 weeks for the immunization to fully protect you.

Because both flu and COVID-19 will be circulating this winter, it’s more important than ever to do what you can to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.

“We have all had to adapt our daily lives to slow the pace of COVID-19 spread because we don’t yet have an effective and widely available vaccine for this virus,” said Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “But we do have a vaccine against the flu. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best way to prevent the flu. Even if you are using masks and keeping your distance.”

Influenza viruses circulate year-round, but cases typically rise by December, remaining high through the winter. Last season 504 people in the Tri-County region were hospitalized with the flu.

Getting a flu shot can lower your chances of catching the flu. And if you do get the flu, symptoms are often more mild thanks to partial protection from the vaccine. But it takes the vaccine about two weeks to fully protect you. So get it now.

Get your Flu Shot today!

COVID-19 precautions at clinics might make getting your flu shot a bit more complicated, but this year it’s more important than ever to keep families healthy and keep healthcare running smoothly. 

Multnomah County is planning community flu vaccination events for later this fall. But there are many ways residents can get their flu shots today:

Check with your health care provider about how to get a flu vaccine this year. 

Most large-chain pharmacies can also provide the flu vaccine and accept many forms of insurance. Check for information about locations near you.

If you don't have a regular doctor, call Multnomah County's Primary Care Clinics to learn about becoming a patient. Vaccines and primary care services are provided to patients, regardless of ability to pay or insurance. Call to learn more: 503-988-5558.

Any Multnomah County youth ages 5 to 18 can get a flu shot at any of the following Student Health Centers. Call in advance to schedule your visit:

  • David Douglas High School 503-988-3554

  • Parkrose High School 503-988-3392

  • Roosevelt High School 503-988-3909


What is influenza?

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious, respiratory illness caused by a number of flu viruses. The flu can cause mild or serious illness. The very young, the elderly and people with underlying conditions are at higher risk of severe flu, including hospitalization.

How is flu spread?

Flu viruses spread mainly through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes people become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

People are most contagious for the first three to four days after they begin to feel sick, but it’s possible to pass the flu to someone else before someone feels sick. Some healthy people can infect others a day before symptoms develop and up to a week later. Others, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be contagious for even longer.

What’s happening with COVID-19?

COVID-19 is spreading through our community. The virus seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people, especially the elderly. The same precautions that can prevent you from getting and spreading COVID-19 can also prevent you from getting and spreading flu viruses:

  • Wear a face covering

  • Keep 6 feet from others not in your household

  • Wash hands often for at least 20 seconds

  • Cover coughs and sneezes

  • Stay home when sick

What are the symptoms of flu?

There are differences between symptoms of flu, COVID-19, a common cold and allergies, although many symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Sore throat 

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Body aches

  • Headache

  • Chills

  • Fatigue

  • vomiting and/or diarrhea

What should I do if I become ill?

If you become ill with fever and other flu-like symptoms, you may have influenza. Most people will recover at home with self care. Stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. You can treat symptoms like fever with non-prescription medicines. Read the labels and talk to your health care provider for advice if needed. 

People who test positive for the flu should stay home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Before going back to your usual activities after being sick, you should make sure you are fever-free for 24 hours and that other symptoms are definitely improving.  If you are unsure and think you may have COVID-19, wait for 10 days to pass since your symptoms started. This is especially important before having close contact with someone who is high risk for serious COVID illness.

How can I protect myself and my family?

The same things that protect people from COVID-19 will help prevent the spread of flu. It’s important to wear a face covering around people who don’t live in your home and stay home if you begin to feel ill.  Here are the four key ways to prevent flu:

  • Get a flu shot. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from getting the flu. 

  • Stay home when sick. By staying home you can help reduce the spread of influenza in the community.

  • Cover your cough. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or the crook of your elbow, not your hands.

  • Wash your hands. Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of disease. Washing hands thoroughly and frequently is important every day, not just when you are sick.

We are still learning about COVID. There is no evidence that getting a flu shot makes you more likely to get sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19.

When should I call the doctor?

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and you have a medical condition or are over 65, call your medical provider today. Your provider will decide whether you should go in for an exam and treatment or not. It is especially important to talk to your provider if any of these apply to you:

  • Pregnant

  • Cancer

  • Blood problems

  • Lung problems

  • Diabetes

  • Heart, kidney or liver disease

  • Nervous System or muscle diseases

  • Weakened immune system

  • Obese (over about 250 lbs for women and 300 lbs for men)

  • You get sicker after flu-like symptoms seemed to get better

If you are experiencing any of the following serious warning signs, you should get emergency care right away. Call 911 if necessary:

In Adults and Children

  • Confusion or can’t be woken up

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen

  • Blue lips 

  • Skin rash

  • Unable to drink or keep liquids down

In Children

  • Fever in an infant under three months old

  • Unusual fussiness