Influenza Vaccinations Protect Against Seasonal Flu and H1N1

Wednesday September 16, 2009

What is it?

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

Novel H1N1 influenza is a newly detected flu virus that has gained the ability to spread easily from person to person. The novel H1N1 flu so far has been no more severe than seasonal flu.

An effective vaccine is the best means of defense against these two diseases.

Why is this important to the Army?

The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency regarding novel H1N1 influenza. The World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, with more than 94,000 cases of novel H1N1 influenza recorded around the world by mid-summer.

Seasonal influenza annually sends more than 200,000 people to the hospital and kills more than 30,000 people in the U.S.

Soldiers on sick call are not on duty, so a contagious disease such as influenza poses a threat to military readiness. If flu pandemic becomes a major health emergency, the Army may be called on to assist civilian health agencies. A well-vaccinated military force can help reduce the spread of the virus in their area of operations or local civilian community.

What is the Army doing?

Vaccinations for both forms of flu are mandatory for military personnel and some civilian employees. Seasonal flu vaccine is available and being administered now in many military medical treatment facilities (MTF). H1N1 vaccine should be available in October, after approval by the Food and Drug Administration. It is highly recommended that family members, retirees and employees also be vaccinated. TRICARE covers the seasonal flu shot for beneficiaries, as long as it is administered in a doctor’s office. The H1N1 vaccine will be at no cost as it is being purchased and provided by the federal government.

What should I do?

In addition to vaccination, people can prevent spread of either strain of flu by:
- Covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throwing the tissue in the trash.
- Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.
- Avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Avoiding close contact with people who have flu-like symptoms.
- Staying home if they become sick, until 24 hours after the fever is gone. This will avoid infecting others.

Resources:

DoD Pandemic Influenza Watchboard

U.S. Army Medical Department Web site

Military Vaccine (MILVAX) Agency

Related blogs:

H1N1: Personal responsibility is key to prevention wash your hands frequently and stay home if you are sick

Keeping yourself healthy

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