The Flu Ends With You
“By CPT Pamela L. Francis”
Think You’re Not at Risk for the Flu? You might be dead wrong. Did you know that while the flu can make anyone sick, people with long-term health conditions— such as asthma, diabetes (type 1 and 2) and heart disease—are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu leading to hospitalization and sometimes death? Rates of infection are highest among children, but the risk for complications, hospitalization and death are higher among adults age 65 or older. In recent years influenza-associated deaths have increased. On average 5% to 20% of the United States population are infected with the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications.
Flu season begins October and runs through March and this season’s flu vaccine will help to protect against 3 strains including the influenza strain from last year. The good news is that you can take a simple step to protect yourself and your family from the flu by getting the flu vaccine each year. The bad news is that despite of the known increased risk for severe influenza and recommendations for vaccination, many are still not getting vaccinated. Still not convinced- Here are answers to frequently asked questions:
What is the flu?
Flu is an illness caused by variety of influenza viruses that circulate throughout the population. Flu can vary from mild illness to a life-threatening condition. For most people, it lasts only a few days. The symptoms are: cough, runny nose, fever, fatigue, body aches, chills, and headaches.
Who is at risk?
Yearly influenza epidemics can seriously affect all age groups, but the highest risk of complications occur among children younger than age two, pregnant women, adults age 65 or older, and people of any age with certain medical conditions, such as chronic heart, lung, kidney, liver, blood or metabolic diseases (such as diabetes), or weakened immune systems. All people 6 months of age and older should get immunized.
But I heard the flu shot is the same as last year.
While the H1N1 virus used to make the 2012-2013 flu vaccine is the same virus that was included in the 2011-2012 vaccine, the recommended influenza H3N2 and B vaccine viruses are different from those in the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine.
The flu shot always gives me the flu!
The flu shot does not give you the flu. If you get flu-like symptoms soon after getting vaccinated, it can mean you may have been exposed to the flu before getting vaccinated, or during the two-week period it takes the body to gain protection after vaccination. It might also mean you are sick with another illness that causes symptoms similar to the flu.
But isn’t the Flu Mist alive?
The Flu Mist (nasal spray) is a vaccine made with live but weakened flu viruses that cannot cause illness. The flu mist is for healthy people between the ages 2 and 49 years old.
What can I do to prevent the spread of the flu?
Hand washing often with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze; Alcohol-based hand cleaners are effective; Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or cough or sneeze into your sleeve; Try to avoid close contact with sick people; If you are sick, stay home; and if you are severely ill or you are at high risk for flu complications, contact your health care provider.
Where can I receive my vaccine?
All active duty soldiers will be given guidance by their chain of command on how the flu shot will be distributed. Beneficiaries will need to visit their primary care clinic. If you can’t make it to your clinic, you may also get your seasonal flu vaccine from a participating TRICARE retail network pharmacy. Call your local network pharmacy to make sure it participates in the vaccine program and has the vaccine in stock. To find a network pharmacy near you, call Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303).
The World Health Organization (WHO), reports that safe and effective vaccines have been available and used for more than 60 years. Among healthy adults, influenza vaccine can prevent 70% to 90% of influenza-specific illness. Among the elderly, the vaccine reduces severe illnesses and complications by up to 60%, and deaths by 80%. Lets get vaccinated
Center for Disease Control (2011, July 6), Seasonal Influenza. Retrieved September 11, 2012,
TRICARE (2012, March), Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved September 11, 2012, from
World Health Organization (2009, April). Influenza (Seasonal). Retrieved July 22, 2012, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html