A Shot of Prevention
Col. Dallas Homas, Madigan Army Medical Center commander, receives a flu vaccination from nurse Cynthia Hawthorne while Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Brady looks on.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- The Centers for Disease Control estimate that the number of flu-associated deaths in the United States between the years of 1976 and 2006 could be as high as 56,000.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus that infects the nose, throat and lungs. If left untreated, it can cause ear and sinus infections, dehydration, bacterial pneumonia, asthma, congestive heart failure, and death. Individuals at a high risk for contracting the virus are adults over the age of 65, children younger than five, pregnant women, health care workers and those with a weakened immune system.

The flu virus is spread through droplet contact (sneezing, coughing or talking) and has the ability to spread to others. People with the flu are contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Signs and symptoms include runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, cough, sore throat and fever. The flu can also worsen existing medical conditions and can cause seizures in children.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. There are two vaccination options available for the flu virus. The inactivated (killed) vaccine is administered as an injection (intramuscular or intradermal) and can be given to people from six months of age and older. The live (weakened) vaccine is sprayed into the nostrils and is recommended for people between the ages of two through forty-nine, who are not pregnant, and in healthy condition. Both methods are effective in protecting against the virus for a year.

Preventing the spread of flu can also be done by washing your hands regularly, blocking sneezes with your elbow and staying home from work if you begin to feel sick.

It may take up to 2 weeks for antibodies to develop that protect against the virus. The vaccination should be given every flu season when the vaccine becomes available.

It is a common myth that receiving a flu vaccination will cause you to become infected with the flu; this statement is false. After receiving the vaccine (live or dead), it is common to experience upper respiratory infection symptoms (sore throat, runny nose, cough, etc), but the vaccination does not cause the flu.

There are several resources providing information regarding the flu virus, including local county health departments, http://www.vaccines.mil, and the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu.

Page last updated Wed October 3rd, 2012 at 15:47