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NEWS | Oct. 11, 2011

NHCC now offering flu vaccine for dependents and retirees

By Jeff Kelly Naval Health Clinic Charleston Public Affairs

The flu vaccine is now available for active duty dependents and retirees at the immunizations clinic located inside Naval Health Clinic Charleston at Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station.

Dependents and retirees can receive their flu vaccines at a family flu line event that will take place daily in the NHCC atrium from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. with no appointment necessary. Intranasal FluMist and the traditional flu shot will be available.

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.

Adults remain infectious for around five days after symptoms begin and children may remain infectious for up to 10 days. 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.

There are several differences between the FluMist, live attenuated influenza virus and the flu shot.

The flu shot and the intranasal FluMist vaccine contain 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. Both vaccines are administered annually to provide optimal protection against influenza infection.

Inactivated vaccine, which contains killed virus, is what is traditionally known as the flu shot. This vaccine is given with a needle. The flu shot is approved for use in people six months of age and older, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.

FluMist contains weakened viruses. These weakened strains usually do not cause illness because they have lost disease-causing properties. However, there is a possibility that they can still reproduce and cause disease. Illness caused by FluMist is usually much milder and shorter than a community-acquired flu.

FluMist is sprayed in the nose, whereas inactivated influenza vaccine is given with a needle in the arm. FluMist is approved for ages two to 49 years.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following groups of people who are at risk for serious complications from the flu be vaccinated each year:
· All children six months to 18-years-old.
· Everyone 50 years of age and over.
· Those who will be pregnant during the influenza season.
· Those who are living in nursing homes.
· Those with chronic illness such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease and immune deficiencies like HIV/AIDS or those on medications that suppress the immune system.
· People with breathing problems like asthma or emphysema.
· People who can transmit flu to high-risk groups such as health care workers, child care providers and caregivers for and household contacts of those in high-risk groups.

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. 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, or contact the PCM clinic or public health at 240-857-5498. For more information regarding the vaccine at NHCC, call the Immunizations Clinic at 794-6850.