Why get an annual flu vaccination

Why get an annual flu vaccination

by: Lt. Sarah Ott
U.S. Naval Hospital Guam
published: December 01, 2012
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The emergence of the novel H1N1 Influenza virus in 2009 reminds us how important it is to get our annual flu shot every year. The 2012-2013 seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine is available at the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam immunizations clinic and the branch medical clinic to all beneficiaries age 6 months and older.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by different viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Typically, symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, extreme fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. In the United States, 95 million people get the flu every year. While most individuals recover without needing medical treatment, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 deaths occur each year due to seasonal flu. Typically, very old and very young individuals and those with certain health conditions, are more likely to experience serious flu complications. Influenza vaccine is mandatory for military personnel and clinic employees with direct patient care.

The flu spreads via respiratory droplets in coughs and sneezes. The first line of defense in protecting yourself from contracting influenza is good personal hygiene:
• Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or by coughing/sneezing into your elbow instead of your hand.
• Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, frequently and especially after coughing/sneezing, using the restroom and before eating.
• Stay away from people who are sick and avoid others if you’re sick.

Immunization is safe, effective and an important means of preventing the flu. Getting the seasonal flu vaccine is highly recommended to all eligible beneficiaries 6 months of age and older. High-risk clinic beneficiaries are strongly advised to receive the vaccine. High-risk individuals include pregnant women, persons age 50 and older and children 6 months to 18 years of age, those with weakened immune systems or chronic health conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, liver/kidney, cardiovascular disorders).

Healthy caregivers and household contacts of persons in these high risk groups (including households in which an infant less than 6 months of age resides) should be vaccinated as well. Flu Mist, the intranasal form of the vaccine for healthy 2-49 year olds, is also available. Both the flu shot and Flu Mist vaccines will help prevent disease caused by seasonal flu viruses, including the 2009 novel H1N1 flu virus.

Children ages 6 months to 8 years who have not received both at least one dose of the novel H1N1 vaccine and a seasonal flu vaccine in the past should receive two doses of this year’s seasonal flu vaccine.

So what to do if you suspect you have the flu? Stay home and avoid contact with other people (unless to get medical care for serious infections) until 24 hours after your fever has broken. Keep kids home as well from school when they’re sick. Most people with flu will have a mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs; however, seek urgent medical care if you experience any of the following:
In children:
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish skin color
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Not waking up or not interacting
• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
• Fever with a rash

In adults
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Confusion
• Severe or persistent vomiting

Vaccinations are at the following locations:
• U.S. Naval Hospital Guam Immunization Clinic open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information, call 344-9453.
• Branch Medical Clinic open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, 1-4 p.m. and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. For more information, call 339-7003
• Andersen Air Force Base Clinic, building 29000 open Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information, call 366-8219.

For more information, contact the preventive medicine department at 344-9787 or visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/