2014-01-31 / Community Events

The number one shot, do you have yours?

By Maj. Davin Bridges and 1st Lt. Timothy R. Williams
Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center

The flu is a contagious viral disease which can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. Typically, young children, the older population, and individuals with certain medical conditions are more susceptible to serious flu complications that include pneumonia and death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that most individuals resist vaccination due to certain myths about the flu vaccine:

Myth: The flu is not a serious disease.

Truth: Some 200,000 people are hospitalized and, on average, tens of thousands of people die in the U.S. each year from influenza.

Myth: Only older people need a flu vaccine.

Truth: Children and adults with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, and heart or kidney disease, and pregnant women are at high risk of complications from influenza as well. Even health people can get the flu, and it can be serious.

Myth: The flu shot doesn’t work.

Truth: Flu vaccine has been as high as 90 percent effective in preventing the flu.

Myth: The side effects are worse than the flu.

Truth: The worst side effect that is likely to occur is a sore arm.

Myth: The flu shot causes the flu.

Truth: Not only is that statement completely false it is totally impossible since the flu shot is produced from a dead virus, and the nasal spray contains live but attenuated virus (damaged as to not cause an infection).

The flu virus spreads mainly by large respiratory droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. An individual can also contract the flu by contaminating their hands by touching a surface or object that is contaminated with the flu virus and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose with that same hand (not as common).

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms: fever or feeling feverish/ chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and some people may have vomiting and diarrhea (this is more common in children).

As of Jan. 4 the CDC shows that the state of Georgia has widespread influenza activity reported by state and territorial epidemiologists. Since Sept. 29, 2013 there have been 908 cases of 2009 H1N1 (most common flu strain) in the southeast region of the United States. In past years, this strain has disproportionately affected young and middle-aged adults.

There are three ways to protect yourself and your family from the flu:

• Take time to get a flu shot

• Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs (frequently wash hands)

• Take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them (need to be taken within two days of the onset of symptoms)

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six-months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.

The vaccine does not protect you from the flu viruses in a matter of minutes; it takes one to two weeks to develop full immunity after the shot is administered. The flu vaccine is a safe and effective means to protect yourself against a potentially serious illness. Protect yourself, protect your loved ones and get your flu vaccine.

Contact the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Army Public Health Nursing at 787-5354 or visit http://www.cdc.gov/ flu/weekly/index.htm#P1 and http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ index.htm website for more information.

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