Story by Teresa A. Martin, Army Public Health Nurse, William Beaumont Army Medical Center

With flu-like illness on the rise, it's not too late for everyone 6 months old and older to get vaccinated. William Beaumont Army Medical Center encourages people to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting the flu shot now.

Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The El Paso Health Department reports there are 1,163 confirmed cases reported so far this flu season, as compared to 252 cases this time last year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that influenza activity in the United States has increased significantly over recent weeks and can have severe effects on those 65 years and older, pregnant women and young children.

Influenza is a contagious disease caused by one of a number of related viruses. Flu symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches and fatigue. The onset of symptoms is sudden and people should stay home until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone except to get medical care. People experiencing symptoms are encouraged to seek treatment promptly. Antiviral drugs may shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Sometimes, the flu vaccine is not enough to prevent getting the flu. There are simple everyday actions that you can do to stop the spread of germs and viruses by practicing the four C's:

1. CLEAN - Wash your hands often. Scrub your hands for at least 30 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner. You can also ensure you don't spread germs by cleaning surfaces in your home that have constant interaction with people's hands, like door knobs and phones.

2. COVER - Cover your cough. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Don't have a tissue? The crook of your elbow will do. When visiting the hospital, you can ask for a mask to further protect you and those around you.

3. CONTAIN - Contain germs by steering clear of others who are sick. If you do get sick, stay home until you're well again, so you don't spread more germs. While at home and recovering, ensure you also follow the CLEAN and COVER methods in your home. People recovering from the flu should not go outside until their fever has subsided for 24 hours without medications.

4. CALL - Anyone with a fever higher than 100 degrees should call their doctor right away. Tricare beneficiaries can call the Nurse Advice Line at 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273), Option 1.

Individuals wishing to receive the influenza vaccination at Ft. Bliss should contact their primary care provider.