LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. – If you want to avoid that aching, tired, runny nose, fever, sneezing and coughing period of misery, you can save yourself with just one quick jab of a needle. Flu season is here, and Air Force health officers say it’s time to get the shot.
The seasonal flu vaccine for 2013-14, is arriving at all military treatment facilities and airmen should receive an email when they are due for their flu shot.
“A service member’s health is a top priority and is maintained with a seasonal flu vaccination,” said Col. James Mullins, Air Combat Command Public Health Officer.
Service members can travel the world and introduce the flu in isolated locations; therefore military members need to get vaccinated as soon as possible, Mullins said.
Active duty and emergency service employees will be vaccinated first, Mullins said. Once enough vaccine is available all beneficiaries can be vaccinated as soon as possible through medical treatment facilities.
Beneficiaries are also able to get immunized outside of their MTF. TRICARE Management Activity has authorized TRICARE providers and network retail pharmacies to administer seasonal influenza vaccine at no cost to authorized beneficiaries.
Most of the flu vaccine offered this season will protect against three types of virus. Nasal spray vaccines and some seasonal flu vaccines will be formulated to protect against four.
Flu mist is licensed to be given to those aged 2-49. Certain groups of individuals should not receive the mist vaccine because it contains a live virus.
These groups include; pregnant women, individuals with suppressed immune systems, people with certain lung problems, chronic diseases affecting major body systems, individuals who have contact with hospitalized severely immune-compromised patients and children receiving aspirin therapy.
Individuals who may fall into these categories should consult their doctor, mention their concerns to the immunization technician and review the information sheet provided to them before receiving the vaccine.
“Flu viruses circulate all year round, are very contagious and may degrade our readiness,” Mullins said.
Flu activity usually begins in November and peaks in the U.S. in January or February. Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue into May.
“There is not an exact date because the flu strain changes a little each year,” said Mullins.
Health officers say service members can reduce their chances of becoming sick with preventative steps like properly washing your hands, avoiding sick people and coughing or sneezing into your sleeve instead of in your hands. In addition, if you have the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading it to others.