Flu season is just around the corner - get vaccinated

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Influenza, or flu, season in the United States begins as early as October and lasts as late as May. Per the Center for Disease Control, every year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with influenza and about 36,000 people die from its complications.

Routine immunization is the most effective way to prevent influenza and decrease influenza-related complications, which can include serious illness and even death. In addition, for military members it could mean not getting the mission accomplished.

The vaccine comes in two varieties. One is a nasal mist and will be given to healthy adults. This is the vaccine we give to most active-duty members. Second is the injection. It is used for young children and older adults and those with chronic disease. There has been a real push in recent years for young children 6 months to 4 years old to receive the vaccine because they are at a substantially increased risk for influenza-related hospitalizations.

Our immunization clinic has the injectable vaccine and we hope to get the mist very soon. We will put notices in the paper when we receive further shipments. We will start immunizing our 45th Medical Group enrolled population and government civil service employees first and then open up our remaining stock to those beneficiaries who are not enrolled to the MDG later in November.

Here's how to tell if you have the flu. The normal flu starts suddenly with muscle and joint aches and chills followed shortly with a dry achy cough with clear or white sputum. Temperatures will fluctuate, but are usually above 100.5. The fever itself is not dangerous and normally responds well to lots of fluids and over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen. After three to five days, you will feel the body clear itself of the virus leaving you feeling improved, but not completely better. At this stage you are no longer contagious and can resume light duty even though the cough may take a few more days to completely go away. Again, the best form of prevention is to get vaccinated, but until then take precautions to minimize your risk.

How can you avoid becoming a victim? Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or one of those waterless hand sanitizers, and keep you hands away from your face.