By Jim DresbachJanuary 24, 2018
An aggressive vaccination schedule and education program has kept influenza under control at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall this winter, according to Andrew Rader Health Clinic.
Through December and January, just eight cases of the flu have been diagnosed at the JBM-HH clinic, while the rest of the country has witnessed widespread outbreaks of the H3N2 and H3N3 strains of influenza.
"As of Jan. 18, we had one confirmed case of the flu (in December)," said Army Lt. Col. Wendy Gray, deputy commander for nursing at Rader Clinic. "In January, we had seven cases. We've only had eight confirmed cases of the flu. We've had quite a few patients come in with flu-like symptoms, but only the eight cases confirmed."
According to Gray, the H3N2 strain is the type of flu most harmful to children and the elderly.
People who get the flu usually recover in two or three days to less than two weeks. Some people will develop complications--such as pneumonia--as a result of the respiratory virus.
Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can also complicate chronic health problems. For example, people with asthma could experience asthma attacks while they have the flu.
The Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall community was very proactive in receiving flu shots this fall. According to Gray, between 3,000 and 4,000 inoculations were issued. Gray thinks this positive approach has helped keep flu cases low in the Military District of Washington.
The flu-fighting campaign brought thousands of vaccines to Fort McNair's National Defense University, Arlington's National Guard Bureau, and the Fort Myer Memorial Chapel this past autumn.
"I think (the campaign) has been proactive in putting the information out there and educating the community," Gray said. "I think taking the flu vaccine has kept our numbers (of sick people) low."
Still, Gray said Soldiers and Marines on JBM-HH should be on the lookout for flu symptoms. Precursors to the full-blown flu are a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and aches and chills that will not subside with over-the-counter medications.
If a Marine or Soldier feels ill, they are urged to visit Rader Clinic.
"They are many in their 20s or early 30s you may feel like you are invincible," Gray said. "You may think you can handle whatever is being thrown at you, and if you get sick, you can deal with it. However, what I will say even if you think you can gut your way through it, think about your battle buddy and your neighbor to the right and left. What if they have an underline illness or a condition you are not tracking? If you are sick, what are you giving to them? It is not about you per se, it is about the people around you. For the active duty service members, think of your battle buddies."
All MDW service members were required to receive the flu vaccine in the autumn, but in case a Soldier or Marine was away on a mission or temporary duty, they and their family members can still receive a flu vaccination at Rader Clinic.
"It is not too late to get a flu shot," Gray said.
Prevention measures to steer clear and not spread the flu bug include hand washing, coughing etiquette (covering your cough correctly), and staying home from work or school when symptoms appear.
"If we're not doing great hand washing, if we're not doing protocols if you're sick like not going into the office or sending kids to school, that will cause a huge influx of the cases we may see," Gray said.
Pentagram staff writer Jim Dresbach can be reached at email@example.com.