Preventing Seasonal Flu
By Greg Chadwick, Air Force Materiel Command Health & Wellness Team
/ Published November 16, 2020
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Most infectious disease experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. A person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touch their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza is to get a flu vaccine every flu season. Flu vaccine has been shown in research studies to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. Flu viruses are constantly changing, so flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the viruses that research suggests will be common during the upcoming flu season. Your protection from a flu vaccine declines over time. Yearly vaccination is needed for the best protection.
Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older.
Influenza vaccinations for all military members are a mandatory requirement, and available through mobile immunization clinics at each installation or at any participating Tricare eligible pharmacies. Tricare beneficiaries are also eligible for flu shots through immunization clinics on base, or at no cost at Tricare eligible pharmacies. For the civilian workforce, all Federal Employee Health Benefit plans cover flu shots at no cost for members and are available at local retail pharmacies.
The CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses, like flu. Healthy habits to help prevent flu include:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick to help prevent the spreading of your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands often to help protect yourself from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects like phones and doorknobs.
- Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.
For more information on preventing seasonal flu, visit USAFwellness.com or contact your local Civilian Health Promotion Services team. Comprehensive information on healthy habits to help prevent the flu can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at: cdc.gov.
Active duty Airmen are advised to consult their base's medical services to check the availability of the flu vaccine.