Being prepared for the flu season

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    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the timing of flu season is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

    Uniformed personnel and civilian healthcare personnel who provide direct patient care in a Department of Defense military treatment facility are required to receive annual influenza vaccination, noted Lt Col Yvette Guzman, MD, Chief of Aerospace Medicine, 30th Medical Group.

    “It is important for Airmen to be vaccinated because it will ensure Vandenberg is a more safe and healthful environment for its members,” she said. “Influenza is a highly contagious disease which has the potential to significantly degrade operational readiness. The flu vaccine is provided to eliminate or minimize exposure to flu illnesses.”

    The CDC warns that antibodies against the flu develop approximately two weeks after receiving the vaccination, so the center recommends getting the vaccination as soon as possible.

    “Begin immunization as soon as the vaccine becomes available through the assigned medical treatment facility,” Dr. Guzman said. “Vaccine instructions will soon be made available; but not getting the vaccine can result in causing an overwhelming number of disease exposures within Vandenberg and this will hinder the services we deliver.”

    Dr. Guzman noted that while waiting to receive the vaccine, there are steps that Airman should take to protect themselves and their families.

    “The most effective strategy for preventing the flu is getting the annual vaccination; however, there are other ways of controlling the flu such as: frequent hand washing, but if that is not available using alcohol-based hand sanitizer can help. Also try to consider taking respiratory precaution seriously; consequently improve your respiratory hygiene by sneezing in your upper sleeve, use face mask or tissues, etc. — all are reasonable and inexpensive practices,” the Chief of Aerospace Medicine said.

    Personnel with symptoms who can be cared for in their home should try to stay isolated. In most cases, the virus will clear up within three to 10 days. If symptoms persist or become worse, Airmen should make immediate arrangements to see their doctor.

    Though CDC states that the flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and last through May, there is no way to forecast the start of this year’s flu season at Vandenberg.

    “Unfortunately, no one can predict who will become ill and suffer adverse outcomes from the flu,” warns Dr. Guzman. “The impact from getting the flu will essentially be dependent on whether you received the vaccine and usage of proper personal hygiene practices.”