Influenza is a deadly disease with significant morbidity, mortality, and impact on combat readiness if it is not properly prevented and treated. Vaccination remains the primary method for preventing influenza and its complications, and Fort Rucker's 2018 Influenza Vaccination Campaign is already in full swing.

The intent is to protect all Soldiers and their dependents, mission-essential civilians, healthcare personnel, retirees, and Fort Rucker school-aged children from the disease.

"We're here for them. Fort Rucker's goal, following (Department of Defense) guidance, is to meet a 90 percent flu shot rate for school aged children by December 1 and Soldiers by December 15. We will continue to monitor and provide numbers to the Soldiers' chain of command," said Capt. Mildred Castillo, chief of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at Lyster Army Health Clinic.

The primary target population for purposes of readiness is the Soldier, and approximately 3,600 Soldiers on post were immunized during the week of Oct. 15 in order to get ahead of the seasonal rush, according to Castillo.

Leaders and Soldiers at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence were able to get their flu shots on their job site at the Headquarters building as part of this year's campaign Oct. 23.

The next scheduled flu shot event is for retirees, and will be conducted during the Retiree Health Fair at Yano Hall Oct. 26 from 8 a.m. until noon.

Beginning Oct. 29, Soldiers and TRICARE beneficiaries may get their flu shots at Lyster Army Health Clinic from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

On Nov. 7, Child and Youth Services employees will have the opportunity to be immunized at their job site from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Lyster will offer special hours at the clinic for immunizations for Department of Defense Education Activity students ages 5 to 18 years old, Nov. 14 and 15 from 3:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.

As part of this year's campaign and for the first time, a community outreach event is planned at the Post Exchange (PX) Nov. 17 from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. for anyone 5 years old and up.

For people who are not TRICARE beneficiaries, the flu shot is available to them at pharmacies and health care providers in the local community.

Castillo's concern is heightened because of last year's flu outbreak in Alabama. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 80,000 people died last year due to the flu or flu-related illnesses.

"You should have your flu shot every year. Last year's flu season was one of the worst that we have seen in the State of Alabama, so this year we are more vigilant based on last year's experience," said Castillo.

Before getting the vaccine, people should talk to their health care provider if they have questions or concerns, including if they previously had a bad reaction to the vaccine, have an allergy to eggs, or are currently sick.

According to Castillo, good hygiene is important during cold and flu season to help prevent the spread of illness. This includes washing hands, not touching the face with the hands, and covering the mouth when coughing.

Also, parents are encocuraged to be proactive and make sure their first aid kits are ready for flu season, to include over the counter medicines for headache, fever and sinus symptoms. They should pay attention to their symptoms, especially a body temperature higher than 100 degrees, sinus problems, ear infections, and dehydration as the flu and colds can have similar symptoms.

"We know flu shots can save lives. Especially if you live in a household with members who might be immunosuppressed or who suffer from conditions like diabetes or asthma, or members who are older than 60 or younger than one year old. So it's good to keep it healthy," Castillo said.

For more information about the flu shot, contact Capt. Mildred Castillo, chief of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at 334-255-7376.