Flu Season: What you need to know

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins, 35th Fighter Wing public affairs photojournalist, sneezes into a tissue while suffering from a cold at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Jan. 9, 2013. The average healthy, individual will suffer a cold at least three times a year or seasonally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the quantity of cold and flu-sufferers increase during October and last till February. For more information on health and wellness or to schedule an appointment, call the 35th Medical Group at 226-6111. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- If you have ever had the flu, you know it can knock you out--with members of your family, friends, and co-workers not far behind. Today, it's more important than ever to get your facts straight about the flu--and the vaccines available to prevent it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly seasonal flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against seasonal flu. The 2012-2013 seasonal flu vaccine was made from three different viruses.

The vaccine available today protects against the seasonal flu viruses as well as the 2009 H1N1 strain and the new H3N2 strain. All uniformed personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces have a mandatory obligation to receive the vaccine every year, unless they are medically unable to receive it. It is highly recommended for all other individuals.

Even though vaccination is not 100% guaranteed in preventing the flu, it will significantly help the body's ability to fight back. In addition to vaccination there are everyday preventive methods for minimizing the spread of the flu.

1. Frequent hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the flu and other infections. You may use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
2. Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing. To prevent the contamination of hands you may use a single-use napkin or the inner crook of your elbow.
3. Avoid crowded areas to help prevent the spread of the virus. The flu is easily spread in congregated areas. By reducing exposure to crowded areas you may be able to avoid getting infected.

You can still get vaccinated with either a flu shot (for people six months and older) or a nasal spray vaccine (for healthy people 2 years through 49 years of age who are not pregnant) at the Main Clinic (Bldg 5525) or the Flight Surgeons Office (Bldg 3925). It's important to realize the vaccine does not give you the flu. The flu shot contains inactivated (killed) viruses, and the nasal spray contains attenuated (weakened) viruses neither of which can cause the flu.

Stay healthy by following the CDC recommended three‐step approach: Vaccination, everyday preventive methods and seeking prompt medical attention at the onset of symptoms!
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