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NEWS | Jan. 16, 2013

Influenza Season

By 1st Lt. James Betz 628th Medical Group Public Health Operations chief

On Jan. 2, many of us reinvigorated the physical pillar of Comprehensive Airman Fitness. So, you shook off the post-holiday blues and resolved to stick to your resolutions past the second week of January.

You started working out regularly, hitting physical training sessions with renewed spirit and even managed to skip the Buffalo Chicken dip at the NFL playoff parties. You are now in the zone and your initial goals are in sight as you prepare to push through that final plateau.

You've seen the reports of this year's bad flu season, and you keep reminding yourself to get vaccinated. You make a mental "note to self" to get the vaccine ... only it gets real busy at work and you forget .

A few days later, you wake up feeling tired and achy with a slight cough. For the first time in a few weeks you skip your workout because you feel so bad. You head home that night, take some meds and hope for the best. Next thing you know you are burning up with a fever, have chills and end up on quarters with the seasonal flu feeling worse than you ever have in your life, and you realize all the work you did getting into shape is getting reset. That is the seasonal flu, and it can derail you if you do not take the proper precautions.

Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that generally hit the United States around November and runs through April and May, with a peak seen in or around February. The flu can cause mild to severe illness and in some severe cases ... death. Flu viruses are in constant change and vary from year to year.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine because it helps your body to develop antibodies to protect you from the various types of viruses that may circulate in the population throughout the season. The Center for Disease Control recommends everyone ages six months and older get a flu vaccine yearly.

Influenza spreads mainly by droplets sprayed when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose. Most healthy adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms appear. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be contagious for a longer period. Some flu-like symptoms to look for include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and vomiting.

In addition to getting your vaccine there are a few additional actions you and your family can take daily to prevent infection:

· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze
· Wash your hands often with soap and water
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
· Avoid close contact with sick people

If you think you have been infected with the flu virus, stay home and do not attempt to go to work, avoid close contact with people, and stay away from the hospital. Contact your provider for instructions on care in case you have other health complications.

After three to five days, the flu should resolve itself; however additional complications may develop such as sinus infections, bacterial pneumonia, dehydration or exacerbation of previous health conditions. These all require additional consult from your provider.

Antiviral drugs such as TAMIFLU have been shown to help, but only during the early onset of symptoms, and often, once an individual feels sick, it is too late to take the drug. Additionally, antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial infections which are different from the flu virus.

If you still need to receive the flu vaccine, the 628th Medical Group offers the shot on a walk-in basis. For more information, call 963-6714.

At the Naval Health Clinic Charleston at the Weapons Station, there is a special vaccine clinic in the atrium from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. daily. Beneficiaries can be seen on a walk-in basis during those times or they can call the Immunization clinic at 794-6850 to schedule an appointment.

For more information see, contact your provider about the influenza vaccine or additional information about the flu.