FORT BENNING, Ga., (Sept. 25, 2013) -- Flu activity in the United States and at Fort Benning is low now, making this the best time to get a flu vaccine to prevent catching the flu.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

The upcoming season's flu vaccine will protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one or two influenza B viruses, depending on the flu vaccine.

Signs and symptoms of flu can include: Fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose, according to the CDC.

All people 6 months and older are now recommended to receive annual influenza vaccination. In February, 2010, the Center for Disease Control's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted in favor of "universal" influenza vaccination in the United States to protect as many people as possible against the flu. There is one exception to this: CDC recommends that children aged 6 months through 8 years of age who have never received a seasonal flu vaccine get two doses of vaccine spaced at least four weeks apart.

Two doses given at least four weeks apart are recommended for children aged 6 months through 8 years of age who are getting a flu vaccine for the first time. Children who only got one dose in their first year of vaccination should get two doses the following year.

All children 6 months up through 8 years of age getting a flu vaccine for the first time need two doses, at least four weeks apart, the first year they are vaccinated in order to develop immune protection.

MACH offers various flu clinics on Fort Benning to all beneficiaries age 5 or older:

Session 1: Oct. 2, North Columbus Medical Home, 2-7 p.m.
Session 2: Oct. 8, Faith Middle School, 2-7 p.m.
Session 3: Oct. 15, Exchange, 2-7 p.m.
Session 4: Oct. 22, McBride Elementary School, 2 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Session 5: Oct. 29, Benning Club, 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Family Medical Home and Pediatrics will offer immunizations to patients during regular scheduled appointments.

More information can be obtained by calling the MACH Flu Hotline, 706-545-8039, the CARE Line, 706-544-2273, select prompt 9 Public Affairs Update, or visiting MACH at www.martin.amedd.army.mil.

Page last updated Wed September 25th, 2013 at 00:00