Flu season upon us; immunizations part of unit readiness

5 Oct 2006 | Cpl. Rose A. Muth

To help combat the occurrence of the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site states now is the time to get an influenza vaccine, otherwise known as the flu shot.

“October or November is ideally the best time to get a flu vaccination, but you can still receive the shot anytime after that,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Brett Staib, independent duty corpsman, Group Aid Station, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF. “Flu season usually lasts from October through May. To help reduce the risk of getting the flu, people should be vaccinated every year.”

According to the CDC, those who are at high risk for complications during the flu include: children 6 through 59 months, pregnant women, people 50 or older, and anyone with certain chronic medical conditions.

People who should not be vaccinated include those who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past, and those who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated after the symptoms lessen.

“The effectiveness of the flu vaccine depends on the age and health of the person receiving the vaccination and there are many factors that can play into that,” Staib said. “Some studies show smokers are at a higher risk to develop the flu than nonsmokers. You also have to take into consideration the type of environment you are around. If people you live or work with are sick, the chances of you also getting infected are high if you don’t take preventative measures to combat germs.”

To help take preventative measures and ensure good future health habits, Staib offers advice to help prevent the spread of germs and the flu.

“You should avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, try to keep your distance from others to prevent getting them sick, too. If possible, stay home from work to prevent spreading it to others as well,” Staib explained. “If you are coughing or sneezing, try to cover your mouth or nose with a tissue because this can help keep airborne germs from spreading. Try to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing as this will also help protect against germs. Lastly, try to avoid touching your face. Germs spread when someone touches something that is already contaminated and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.” 

With many units preparing to deploy, part of unit readiness is being up-to-date with all shots and ensure medical records are updated as well.

“Health care in theater is not as consistent as the battalion aid station here in the rear. The conditions could be different from a Marine or sailor’s previous deployment and you don’t want to be caught off guard,” said Navy Lt. Genevieve B. Buenaflor, battalion surgeon, 2nd Radio Battalion, II MHG, II MEF. “There might also not be much medical support available in theater and you don’t want to be caught off guard by any surprises.”

Buenaflor also stresses the importance of service members receiving the vaccination to help stay updated with the constant changes in the influenza virus strands.

“Every year there are string changes in the influenza virus strands. The CDC comes out with a list every year of the most common types of flu viruses and we want to make sure we have the maximum amount of readiness,” Buenaflor said. “Although the vaccine doesn’t guarantee 100 percent protection from the flu, it can help lower your risk of getting the virus if you maintain good health habits.”

For more information on the influenza virus, visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov or visit your unit aid station.