SEMBACH, Germany – Many people have a tendency to try and “tough it out” when they feel sick, but when it comes to spreading germs and possibly infecting others around you, health experts recommend setting your ego aside and just staying home.
“If you are not feeling well and aren’t 100 percent sure what you have, we recommend you stay home until you’ve contacted your healthcare provider,” said Lt. Col. Renee Howell, European Regional Army Public Health Senior Nurse Executive for Public Health Command Europe.
“Another option TRICARE beneficiaries have is to call the Nurse Advice Line using the toll-free number designated for their particular region with any questions they may have,” added Howell.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
“Testing for COVID is currently available to anyone who has a fever, a cough or difficulty breathing, and or, had contact with a confirmed COVID positive case. Having multiple symptoms is not a requirement in order to be tested,” said Howell.
COVID-19 screening clinics at Army MTFs in Europe are open during normal business hours, and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center COVID Screening Clinic is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week,
“Until you’ve had a chance to be seen by a medical provider, and even following a diagnosis, there are some simple, yet effective, steps one can take to keep yourself and others safe,” added Howell. “Stay within your home or quarters and monitor your health for signs of respiratory illness (cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, or fever exceeding 100 F). Do not travel, visit public/crowded areas, or use public transportation, and if living with family members or roommates, maintain separate living space to the greatest extent possible.”
Public Health officials also say getting your flu shot is extremely important in the midst of this COVID pandemic.
“It will protect you and those around you from contracting this highly contagious and potentially deadly disease and reduce burdens to our already stressed health care systems,” said Howell. “Getting vaccinated helps to reduce the severity and spread of the disease and improves community immunity.”
According to Public Health officials, MTFs will soon be offering flu vaccinations to children and adults 65 and older, and installation-sponsored community influenza vaccination events are currently scheduled to begin in early November, depending on where you are located, and vaccine availability.
Specific event dates, times and locations will be announced on AFN, your MTF’s web and social media sites and through local installation communication channels. Once the vaccine is available, flu shots will also be offered at MTFs during regularly scheduled appointments.
Once you have been vaccinated against the flu, the next step is to stop the spread of germs.
“The best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick is to increase hand washing frequency, particularly before and after personal interactions, practice social distancing, wear a face covering, open windows to increase air flow, and sanitize shared spaces after utilization.” Howell said.
The CDC website indicates that both COVID-19 and influenza can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and influenza share include: fever or feeling feverish/chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue (tiredness); sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle pain or body aches and headache. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
According to public health officials, it’s possible to have COVID-19 yet be asymptomatic and not show any signs of being or feeling ill. Thus, the need to practice good hand hygiene and social distancing and use a face covering in public or when social distancing is not possible.
“For both COVID-19 and the flu, it’s possible to spread the virus for up to two days before experiencing any symptoms,” Howell said. “For COVID, individuals may remain contagious for at least 10 days after signs or symptoms first appear. On the other hand, if you are symptom free for 72 hours after having the flu, you are generally not considered contagious.”
Public Health officials suggest that when it comes to staying healthy and safe, one should always err on the side of caution.
“It is the duty of every Soldier and DA Civilian to protect the safety and health of their fellow Soldiers, family members and co-workers,” Howell added. “It is not a duty to be taken lightly. This is not the time to be a hero and take the chance of infecting others around you. If you are sick, call your supervisor immediately and let them know you are not feeling well then seek medical care as soon as possible.”