Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It spreads from person to person by droplets that are released in the air when we cough or sneeze.
It can cause mild to severe illness and, in some cases, lead to death. In the United States, yearly outbreaks of seasonal flu usually happen during the fall through early spring.
This year’s flu vaccine will protect against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. This includes influenza A (H1N1) virus, influenza A (H3N2) virus and influenza B virus.
Flu symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body ache, and fatigue.
Some people, more commonly children, may have vomiting and diarrhea. People who have the flu usually feel some or all of these signs and symptoms.
Complications from the flu can worsen for people with certain medical conditions such as asth-ma, diabetes, congestive heart failure, blood disorders, and people with suppressed immunity. Also at risk for complications are young children, older adults and pregnant women.
Flu vaccination is recommended for those at-risk groups by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Department of Defense.
CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine each year. Getting a flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious illness. CDC also recommends that people get vaccinated against influenza as soon as 2013-2014 flu season vaccine becomes available in their community.
Influenza seasons are unpredictable. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
The vaccine is needed every year because flu viruses are constantly changing. It’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year. The vaccine is formulated each year to keep up with the flu viruses as they change. Taking some simple steps, like washing your hands to stop the spread of germs and getting an annual flu vaccine, can help protect you from the flu.
USA MEDDAC flu vaccination clinics and hours are as follows:
wGuthrie Immunization Clinic provides walk-in influenza vaccinations from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for Family Members and retirees who are TRICARE beneficiaries.
wEligible Department of Defense civilian employees and Guthrie Clinic health care workers may receive their flu vaccine from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Occupational Health Clinic.
Active-duty Soldiers will receive flu vaccinations by unit appointment. For more information, consult your chain of command.
Pregnant females are at high risk for illness caused by influenza. The OB / GYN Clinic in Watertown will provide flu vaccination during scheduled patient appointments.
Contractors on Fort Drum are not eligible to receive the vaccine through MEDDAC, but they are encouraged to obtain it through their personal health care pro-viders or local public health department.
Remember that getting a flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against influenza. For updates and information, call the Flu Hotline at 772-5044.
Army Public Health Nursing