In contrast to last year, there is an ample supply of flu vaccine this year, county health officials said in encouraging residents to get vaccinated, especially those at higher risk of complications. The flu season generally runs from October to April, peaking in January and February.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies as high risk those 65 and older with underlying chronic health conditions, residents of long-term care facilities, people ages 2 to 64 with underlying chronic health conditions, children ages 6 months to 23 months, pregnant women, health care workers who provide direct patient care and household members and out-of-home caregivers of children ages 6 months or younger.

Health officials recommend the following to help prevent the spread of the virus:

* Wash hands frequently, scrubbing them together for 20 seconds with soap and warm water.

* Cover coughs and sneezes with tissue; sneeze and cough into your upper sleeve, not your hands.

* Stay home if flu symptoms develop.

Vaccines cost $25 and are available at health department district offices in Falls Church (703-534-8343), Herndon-Reston (703-481-4242), Joseph Willard Health Center, Fairfax City (703-246-7100), Mount Vernon (703-704-5203) and Springfield (703-569-1031).

It can take up to two weeks for a flu shot to provide protection.

For information, call 703-246-2411 or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd.