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Avoiding influenza: Flu vaccination, education effort under way

Sgt. 1st Class Justin Hartman, NCO Academy, receives a flu shot from Sgt. Joey Rivera, Lyster Army Health Clinic, at Yano Hall Oct. 20. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Sgt. 1st Class Justin Hartman, NCO Academy, receives a flu shot from Sgt. Joey Rivera, Lyster Army Health Clinic, at Yano Hall Oct. 20. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: October 23, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 23, 2014) -- With recent talks of Ebola in the news, one more common virus could potentially make its rounds if people aren’t prepared – influenza.

That’s why Fort Rucker wants to make sure that its population is properly educated and prepared when it comes to getting this season’s flu vaccinations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal flu activity begins as early as October and peaks between January and February, and that’s why Jeanie Eddy, allergy immunizations nurse for Lyster Army Health Clinic, urges people get their flu vaccinations early to fight the spread of the virus.

“The flu vaccine is very important and people need to make sure to get it every season, especially for the young and the elderly,” she said. “It’s important for everybody, but young children and older adults are more susceptible to getting the flu because of weaker immune systems.”

There are two delivery options available for the vaccine this year: the traditional shot or the nasal mist. Flu vaccinations will be available for active-duty Soldiers (who didn’t get the vaccine at Yano Hall), retirees and family members at preventative medicine in Lyster beginning Nov. 3.

The nasal mist, the less painful of the two options, is only licensed for people between the ages of 2-49 years who are in a healthy condition, said Eddy. Those outside of that age range must have the shot.

“The mist is a great option for children 2 and older because it’s a lot less scary for them and less painful,” said the immunizations nurse. “All they have to do is sniff it through their nose.”

Although the mist is less painful, it’s not for everyone, she said. Those with weakened immune systems due to medications or treatments, such as chemotherapy, or any type of immunodeficiency must take the shot due to the fact that the nasal mist is a weakened, live virus, while the shot is not.

Both, however, are equally adept at helping the body build its defense against the virus.

“When we give you the shot or the mist, the body builds antibodies in its system against the strain that is in the flu vaccine,” said Eddy. “With the mist, it is a weakened live, but it serves the same purpose. The immune system will get a hold of that virus and build antibodies to resist the virus. Essentially it’s teaching the body to fight against the strains of flu that you might be most susceptible to getting for the season.”

Although the vaccine helps protect the body against the virus, it’s not 100 percent effective, she added, but that’s no excuse for people to skip out on vaccinations this season.

“We want to make sure that most people get it, but a lot of people don’t get it because they think it will make them sick, which is one of the biggest misconceptions about the vaccine,” said Eddy.

Oftentimes, especially around this time of year, people will get sick through other viruses, such as colds, and associate that sickness with the flu shot they received, which causes these misconceptions to come about, she said. Despite what people think, however, they should make sure they do what they can to prevent the spread of the disease.

Poor hygiene is the biggest culprit in spreading the flu, said Eddy.

“Wash your hands often and if you know someone is sick with the flu please stay clear of them,” she said. “The best defense against the flu, though, is good hand hygiene.”

People’s hands come in contact with every surface imaginable, so it provides a perfect vehicle for the virus to spread, said the immunizations nurse.

“Make sure you have some hand sanitizer on you or wash your hands with soap and water whenever possible,” she said. “Cover your mouth when you cough and when you sneeze to make sure you’re not spreading those germs around.”

Preventative medicine in Lyster is a walk-in clinic, and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/136834/

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