By Mr. Douglas Demaio (Army Medicine)December 4, 2012
VILSECK, Germany -- Health officials at Bavaria Medical Department Activity are observing a large amount of people getting a flu vaccine this season, but are acknowledging more works needs to be done to protect people from an influenza outbreak.
Among individuals in the military community who are at high risk for complications associated with the flu, less than 50 percent received the immunization.
"The flu, contrary to common belief, is quite serious," Victorio Vaz, an epidemiologist for Bavaria Medical Department Activity, said to listeners during a morning radio show on American Forces Network Dec. 3. "Between 5 and 20 percent of the population gets the flu every year."
About 200,000 people are hospitalized every year because of the flu, Vaz said. For the past 30 years in the United States, deaths range between 3,000 and 49,000 every year due to the flu
Individuals at high risk for complications associated with the flu include pregnant women, newborns if the mother wasn't immunized, elderly people, anyone with diabetes, asthma or respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
"As you get older, you have more chronic conditions and therefore you are probably more susceptible to serious complications," Vaz told listeners. "Pregnant women are at very high risk for complications."
While the flu vaccine in safe and effective for pregnant women, recent studies have suggested the effectiveness of the vaccine is passed on to the newborns and provide them protection, Maj. Benjamin Palmer, Bavaria Medical Department Activity Preventative Medicine chief, explained to listeners of AFN Bavaria's morning show.
"For those babies who are less than 6 months, that is why it is important to vaccinate the pregnant women because recent studies have shown that women are able to carry antibody immunity on to the child up to 4 months."
The vaccine can be administered to children one they reach 6 months.
"Mothers to be who are out there, if you get vaccinated, you can carry on protection to your baby," Palmer said to listeners. "By you protecting yourself, you are protecting others."
By the beginning of National Influenza Vaccination Week, which is from Dec. 2 to Dec. 8, about 99 percent of all Soldiers in Bavaria had received the vaccination, Palmer said, who helps track the compliance ratio for BMEDDAC. About 95 percent of health workers in Bavaria have received their vaccination. The group of individuals categorized as high risk, who can receive the vaccination, have not reached a threshold that would diminish a virus if it were introduced to the community. Some persons, given their medical history, are unable to receive the flu vaccination because of health reasons.
Palmer and Vaz advocated people in the community should be immunized if they are able to receive the vaccine and should help to prevent the spread of communicable diseases by practicing good hygiene; people should washing their hands, sneezing or coughing into the crook of their elbow and should not go to the workplace when they are sick.