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Protect Yourself: Get The Flu Vaccine

10/18/2018

By WRNMMC Command Communications​

It's that time of year again to get your flu vaccine.

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center's annual flu campaign is underway, and beneficiaries and staff members can receive the vaccine in Building 9 (Arrowhead Zone), first floor foyer at the maroon tent between the Gastroenterology Clinic waiting area and Transplant Service. The vaccine will be given Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Nov. 30.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older to protect against the flu, explained Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Satyen Gada, a WRNMMC physician leading this year’s campaign.

The CDC states the flu vaccine “is the best tool modern medicine currently has to prevent infection with influenza viruses.” Flu activity often begins in October in the United States, increases from December through February, and may last a late as May, according to the CDC.

In addition to getting a flu vaccine, Gada and other health-care providers at WRNMMC recommend a few other measures to help prevent the spread of germs and possibly becoming sick, including:

* washing your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub

* covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing

* avoiding close contact with sick people

* cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects regularly

If you do get sick, health-care officials also recommend you stay at home and allow yourself time to rest and recover to avoid exposing others to your illness.

The CDC classified 2017-2018 "a high severity season” because of higher than usual outpatient clinic and emergency department visits for influenza-like illness, increased influenza-related hospitalization rates, and widespread influenza activity across the United States for an extended period.

CDC officials also indicate the flu caused between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually in the United States since 2010. However, they add that the flu vaccination prevented an estimated 5.3 million illnesses, 2.6 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 85,000 hospitalizations associated with influenza.

"A 5 percentage point increase in vaccination rates could have prevented another 483,000 influenza illnesses, 232,000 influenza-associated medical visits, and 7,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations across the U.S. population,” the CDC added.

Flu viruses infect the nose, throat, and lungs and can cause a range of health complications, according to health-care providers. They add that sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu. “Pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either flu virus infection alone or from co-infection of flu virus and bacteria. Flu virus infection can also cause serious complications like inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis), and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Flu can also trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection,” the CDC stated.

The CDC furthered that people at high risk of flu complications include:

* children younger than 5, but especially those younger than 2 years old

* people 65 and above

* people with asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions

* people with blood, kidney, liver, endocrine, and metabolic disorders, including diabetes mellitus

* people who have a weakened immune system due to disease or medication

* pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum

* residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

Although some people voice concern that the flu vaccine can give them the flu, CDC officials explain this is not the case.

“The most common side effects from a flu shot are soreness, redness and/or swelling where the shot was given, fever, and/or muscle aches. These side effects are not flu. If you do experience side effects, they are usually mild and short-lived, especially when compared to symptoms from a bad case of flu,” the CDC states.

“Flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years. Extensive research supports the safety of flu vaccines. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor the safety of vaccines approved for use in the U.S.” the CDC furthered.

For more information about the flu and flu prevent, visit the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/index.html.​