NEWS | Nov. 16, 2015

Want to avoid the flu?

By A1C Adriana Saenz 628 AMDS/ SGPM

Chilly mornings are a reminder that fall is here and it is time to get flu shots!  The flu season typically runs from fall to early spring. During these months, we can expect to be surrounded by people battling fever, cough, runny nose, sore throats and muscle aches.  These symptoms can range from mild to severe and, in some cases, they can lead to hospitalization and/or death.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year on average, 5% to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu. 

The flu can really put a damper on your work and social life. If you're worried about missing out on holiday celebrations, family events, social activities or work; getting an annual flu shot is your best defense. The flu vaccination has important benefits. It can reduce the number of influenza-associated illnesses, time away from work and school, medical visits and hospitalizations. According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, there have been five laboratory confirmed flu-related deaths so far this year.

The flu virus changes every year, which is why it's so widespread and difficult to prevent. New vaccines are developed each year in an attempt to keep up with these rapid changes. To determine which influenza viruses are incorporated in the seasonal flu vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) reviews virus surveillance reports annually and recommends specific vaccine viruses for inclusion in the influenza vaccines. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines which vaccine viruses will be used in U.S.-licensed vaccines. 

How does the flu shot work? The flu shot works by helping your immune system produce antibodies. It takes about two weeks for these antibodies to develop. These antibodies help the body to fight off the types of flu virus that are present in the vaccine. Flu vaccines can protect against three or four viruses. Flu vaccines that protect against three viruses are called trivalent, while the vaccines that protect against four viruses are called quadrivalent. The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age or older be vaccinated against the flu. There are two flu vaccine options: the shot or the nasal spray (FluMist).

These precautions should be taken daily to help reduce the risk of getting and spreading the flu:
· Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
· While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
· If you are sick with a flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
· Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Getting vaccinated is the single best way to protect against the flu and it is an Individual Medical Readiness (IMR) requirement for all active duty members. Come and get yours today!

For more information about the flu, please contact Public Health at 963-6880 or visit www.cdc.gov/flu.