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NEWS | Nov. 25, 2013

The Flu - part two

By Staff Sgt. Amber Coyle 628th Medical Group, Public Health technician

The 2013 flu season has just begun and already 278 flu cases, resulting in 16 hospitalizations and one death have been reported in South Carolina.

This number appears high, but the Centers for Disease Control and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control state that the flu activity in our area is low compared to past seasons. However, every season is different, depending on what strain takes hold in the population and the months and number of cases may vary greatly.

If you have not already received the vaccination, what are you waiting for? The vaccine is required for all active-duty members and highly encouraged for active-duty family members. Numerous people come into the clinic with reservations about receiving flu shots and many commonly believe the vaccine makes a person get the flu. This preconception is not accurate. According to the CDC, the nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live virus, but the viruses are weakened and cannot cause illness. The weakened viruses are cold-adapted, meaning they are designed to only cause infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. This may result in a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, chills, tiredness/weakness, sore throat and headaches in some people. These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to the symptoms of a full-blown influenza infection.

Aside from the vaccine there are other prevention methods which are keys to avoiding any sickness. The CDC's recommendations for avoiding the flu include:

· Avoiding close contact with sick people.

· If you are sick with a flu-like illness, the CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Your fever should dissipate without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. The exception to leaving your house should be limited to getting medical care or other necessities.

· Limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them while you are sick.

· 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, such as door handles, children's toys, and countertops.

It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to start protecting you, so the sooner you receive the vaccine, the better off you will be.

For any questions or concerns, your local Public Health Office at 963-6926.