FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 18, 2012) -- Influenza season is upon Fort Rucker but Lyster Army Health Clinic is currently offering the vaccine to active-duty personnel and children less than 3 years old only, but encourages everyone to remain vigilant about getting the vaccine.

Due to the limited availability, Lyster will have special opportunities later in the season for everyone to get vaccinated, said Carolyn Peterson, a licensed practical nurse and allergy immunology technician at Lyster.

A Children's Flu Clinic will be available Oct. 30 from 4-5:30 p.m. and Nov. 5 from 4-5:30 p.m., which will focus primarily on school-age children, at the Lyster Immunization Clinic. The vaccine will also be available to retirees and their Family members at the Retiree Appreciation Day Oct. 26 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Fort Rucker Physical Fitness Facility.

Peterson said the vaccine will be available to all beneficiaries Oct. 29.

The best way to prevent the flu, according to Peterson, is to get the flu vaccine each season. There are two types of flu vaccines: inactivated vaccine with a "dead" virus and attenuated vaccine with a "live" or weakened virus that is sprayed into the nostrils.

Different types of people are encouraged to get vaccinated.

"Everyone who is at least 6 months-of-age should get a flu vaccine this season. It's especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu, such as people who have asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease. Pregnant women, people 65 and older and people who live with or care for others should also be aware of the importance of getting vaccinated," said Donna Upshaw-Combs, community health nurse.

Though the staff at Lyster wants everyone who is healthy to get the shot, there are some people who should not get vaccinated, according to Peterson.

"If a patient has a severe allergy to eggs, had a severe reaction after being previously vaccinated, has Guillain-Barre Syndrome or is ill they should not be vaccinated with the inactivated vaccine. Adults over the age of 50 and children younger than 23 months of age, pregnant women, anyone with a weakened immune system, or people with long-term aspirin treatments or health problems should not take the live, intranasal vaccine," said Peterson, adding that a healthy person can choose to have the injection instead of the live mist if they choose.

Flu seasons' severity varies each year as the virus evolves, so officials emphasize the importance of being vaccinated to protect against the illness.

"Over a period of 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control, between 1976 and 2006 estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of 3,000 to a high of 49,000 people," said Lt. Col. Samuel Jones, chief of preventative medicine at Lyster.

Basic hygiene such as hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes can help prevent the spread of the illness.

"The flu is very contagious and can spread when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. Sometimes the virus is spread when people touch surfaces or objects that have the flu virus on it then touching their own face. So it's important to be vigilant about hygiene for yourself as well as your children," said Peterson.

People often think that getting the flu vaccine makes them sick, which Peterson said is not true, stating that the immune system was compromised before receiving the shot or mist.

"The virus can be passed on to someone before the infected individual is aware that he or she is sick and the virus can spread while the infected individual is or is not exhibiting symptoms. Most healthy individuals can infect others beginning Day 1 before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick," said Jones, adding that it can take up to a week for the body to create antibodies to fight off the flu.

It is not uncommon to have flu-like symptoms after being vaccinated.

"Many patients complain of having symptoms such as a cough and a headache, but these problems only last a day or two," said Peterson.

For more information about the influenza vaccine, call 255-7325.