NEWS | Sept. 5, 2012

NHCC now offering pediatric flu vaccine for children 6 to 36 months

By Jeff Kelly Naval Health Clinic Charleston Public Affairs

Pediatric flu vaccines are now available at Naval Health Clinic Charleston for children between the ages of six and 36 months. NHCC has not yet received a vaccine for older patients, but those vaccines are expected to arrive in September.

"We ask that our beneficiaries with children between the ages of six and 36 months begin bringing their children to our Immunizations clinic right away," said Lt. Crystal Massey, NHCC public health services department head.

The influenza virus can spread from infected persons primarily through coughing and sneezing. People can spread the virus even before they realize they are sick. The time from infection until symptoms develop can range from one to four days.

"The flu virus can be especially hard on children," said Massey. "Children may remain infectious for up to 10 days after contracting the virus."

Symptoms of the flu include abrupt onset of fever, chills, coughing, headache, runny nose, sore throat and muscle and joint pains. Most people suffer a moderate illness with influenza for three to seven days, but others may need to be hospitalized.

The flu vaccine contains strains of influenza viruses that are matched to protect against influenza strains that are likely to circulate each year. Viruses for both vaccines are grown in eggs. Each year's vaccine may be different from the preceding year because circulating strains of influenza virus change from year to year. The vaccine must be administered annually to provide optimal protection against influenza infection.

It is estimated that the flu vaccine prevents influenza in 70 to 90 percent of adults under 65-years-old, with rates slightly higher in children and somewhat lower in older adults, especially those who reside in nursing homes. The vaccine can also be 50 to 60 percent effective in preventing flu-related hospitalization or pneumonia and 80 percent effective in preventing influenza-related death in older adults.

"Getting the flu vaccine each year is the best way to prevent the flu," said Massey. "In addition, good health habits, such as covering your cough and washing your hands can help prevent the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses."

For more information regarding influenza, visit the CDC Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/flu. For more information regarding pediatric flu vaccine at NHCC, call the Immunizations Clinic at 794-6850.