By Julie CalohanOctober 1, 2009
In April, the government declared a national public health emergency after detecting a novel strain of H1N1 influenza.
However, the Department of Defense has labeled H1N1 as having minimal operational impact and it is currently identified as being less severe than the seasonal influenza.
With that in mind, health officials at Madigan Army Medical Center are planning for both the seasonal flu and H1N1 flu, and are prepared to administer required vaccinations for both illnesses to the Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base communities.
There will be a three-part vaccination phase for the seasonal flu at Madigan. Phase one includes vaccinating beneficiaries during scheduled appointments as soon as the seasonal flu vaccination is available. Phase two involves the mandatory vaccination of all active duty assigned to Madigan, and those civilian staff who provide direct patient care. Phase three is the vaccination of assigned Madigan beneficiaries during National Influenza Vaccination Week Dec. 7 to 10, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. These will also be the make-up days for Madigan staff.
"Madigan is fully engaged in preparing for the upcoming influenza season," said Col. James Cook, chief, Preventive Medicine department. "We are strongly encouraging everyone to get the flu shot or mist early this year."
On employee immunization dates, active duty and civilian Madigan staff must show a valid Madigan identification badge in order to receive the vaccination.
Madigan civilians requesting exemptions for medical reasons should bring medical documentation justifying the exemption request to Occupational Health before Oct. 1. Civilians requesting exemptions for religious reasons should bring religious documentation justifying their religious exemption request to Civilian Personnel before Oct. 1. Contract employees are not eligible for either flu vaccination at Madigan, and must refer to their contracting agency for more information.
As long as TRICARE Prime patients receive the seasonal flu shot from a TRICARE network provider, the vaccine is free. The vaccination is also free for those enrolled in TRICARE Standard, Extra, or TRICARE Prime Remote, as long as they use any TRICARE-authorized provider. TRICARE will not reimburse beneficiaries for the cost of a flu shot received at a grocery store or pharmacy. TRICARE will also cover the cost of H1N1 vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control once the vaccine has been released.
"Influenza viruses change from year to year," said. Lt. Col. Patrick Garman, deputy director of the Military Vaccine Agency. "Protection that develops after a person is infected or is immunized against the circulating viruses of one season does not provide adequate cross-protection when a new influenza strain develops," he added.
Certain people are at high-risk of serious complications from the seasonal flu. The priority of vaccinations is people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.
The H1N1 vaccine should be available in October. People 10 years of age and older will receive one dose. Those six months of age to less than 10 years will require two doses separated by approximately one month.
For H1N1 flu, priority of vaccinations is pregnant women, household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, all people from 6 months to 24 years of age, persons aged 25 to 64 years who have health conditions associated with a high risk of medical complications from influenza, persons aged 25 to 64 with no health risks and persons 65 years and older.
Vaccines are delivered in two ways - through injection or nasal mist.
The two diseases cause similar symptoms: fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. Symptoms normally last three to five days, but a person may be contagious for up to five days before showing symptoms and for up to 10 days after showing symptoms. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should stay home except to get medical care or for other necessities.
The best treatment for the flu is prevention. Steps for prevention include washing hands often and limiting contact with infected persons, surfaces and objects like door knobs. Practice coughing protocol (coughing into your sleeve or use a tissue), and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
The Madigan Public Affairs Office will have an influenza information table set up at each entrance. Also, flu stations containing hand sanitizer dispensers and tissues will be deployed throughout the hospital.
For more information, visit the Madigan Web site at www.mamc.amedd.army.mil/flu.htm, or call the Madigan flu hotline at (253) 968-4744.