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U.S. Navy Prepares Personnel and Families for Seasonal Flu Readiness and Prevention

Seaman Desiree Green, Navy Public Affairs Support Element - East
2009-09-16





PORTSMOUTH, Va. 09.15.2009

With flu season quickly approaching, officials for the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center are urging military personnel and their families to be aware of the risks of seasonal flu and how to prevent contamination.

Influenza is not the common cold and can be a severe to life-threatening disease. Immunization remains the primary method of reducing seasonal influenza illness and its complications. Getting an annual influenza vaccine immunization protects many people from getting the disease or becoming severely ill. The vaccine not only helps protect vaccinated individuals, but also the community as a whole by preventing and reducing the spread of the disease.

"If you are healthy, you should take care of yourself, follow medical practices, and stay in touch with medical providers," said Capt. Bruce A. Cohen, commanding officer in charge of NMCPHC.

It is the current Department of Defense's policy that annual seasonal influenza vaccinations are required for all active duty military personnel, Selected Reserves and healthcare workers.

Cohen said the people that are affected most are the elderly, the very young, and the people who are sick or not as healthy as the general population.

Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. People may also become infected by touching something with influenza on it and then touching their mouth or nose. According to Cohen, some ways to prevent becoming infected or spreading the virus is to practice couching into your elbow, rather than your hand. Also, for added protection, wash your hands frequently using proper hand washing techniques.

With the pandemic H1N1 virus still making headlines, NMCPHC officials want military families to be prepared and to receive the H1N1 vaccine once available.

"It's important that people listen to the information that is coming out," said Cohen. "It is very easy to take this information and misinterpret it."

All military personnel will be vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus and it is anticipated the vaccine will also be available to all military family members who wish to be immunized. Because the seasonal flu is a different strain of flu than H1N1, it is still important for everyone to receive a seasonal influenza vaccination in order to be protected from seasonal flu..

Navy Medicine will be monitoring the 2009 H1N1 virus carefully over the coming months and will be proactive in developing contingency plans to address any public health issues if required. Although force health protection is the responsibility of every commander and service member, it is important for all hands to take the proper actions to protect personnel, beneficiaries, coworkers and family members against influenza of any kind.

Seasonal flu immunizations have already began across military facilities worldwide. The H1N1 vaccination program is expected to begin in early October.






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