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Naval Hospital Bremerton can help Weather the Winter Flu Season

Puget Sound winter in the New Year has brought cold temperatures, wet weather, and a steady increase in influenza cases.

Naval Hospital Bremerton might not be able to change climate concerns, but can certainly help prevent, handle, and control the impact of the flu season.

Since December 2018, there have been a number of confirmed influenza cases at NHB, all with a common denominator; not having the influenza immunization.

According to Lt. Rohan A. Jairam, Environmental Health Officer and Preventive Medicine Department head, immunization remains the primary method of reducing seasonal influenza illness and its complications. The seasonal influenza vaccine not only helps protect vaccinated individuals, but also helps protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of the disease.

“Typically, there is an increase in the number of flu cases around this time of the year. Vaccination is the first and most important step toward fighting the flu,” Jairam said.

Influenza is not the common cold. Influenza can be a severe to life-threatening disease and getting an annual influenza vaccine immunization protects many people from getting the disease or becoming severely ill.

“Getting vaccinated helps protect you once the flu season starts in your community. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to the illness,” stressed Jairam.

The good news is that Jairam noted that NHB’s annual influenza vaccination clinic administered 3,826 shots to uniformed service members, eligible beneficiaries and DoD civilians November 1-6, 2018, an increase of 622 from the previous year.

For those who have not received an influenza vaccination, NHB’s Immunization Clinic – which has provided 2,000 additional influenza vaccinations from November 6, 2018 to January 10, 2019, is open for those in need from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Bangor is 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., BHC Everett is 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and BHC Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., all Monday through Friday.

For those already inoculated with the annual immunization, they do not need to receive it again – only children who have never received a flu vaccine require a two-shot series the first year they get vaccinated.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the U.S. experiences annual epidemics of seasonal flu, which often begins in October and November, peaking between December and February, and sometimes lasting until May.

NHB echoes the CDC recommendation that everyone – even those as young as six months – should get the influenza vaccine each year. It is especially important for pregnant women and people with chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, and those that have weakened immune systems.

Dr. Dan Frederick, NHB Population Health and Forecasting expert, points out that just as it is important for military personnel who live and work in close quarters to receive the vaccine, it is also highly advised for school-aged children, as they come into close contact with each other and can easily spread the influenza virus.

“Flu cases have started to pick up. We always hope that as many people as possible take advantage of the week-long clinic we scheduled earlier, but it’s always better late than never to get their vaccination,” Frederick said.

Immunization remains the primary method of reducing seasonal influenza illness and its complications. The seasonal influenza vaccine not only helps protect vaccinated individuals, but also helps protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of the disease.

There are also multiple steps that can be done daily to mitigate the potential spread of the flu. One of the most effective is hand washing.
One of the challenging aspects of flu is that someone who becomes infected can infect others one day before they have symptoms and up to five days after becoming sick. Influenza usually causes mild to severe illness, and in extreme, uncommon, cases can lead to death.
Symptoms of influenza include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, chills, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea also can occur but are more common in children than adults. Traditionally, seasonal flu impacts the elderly and the young.

What can people do to protect themselves against the flu virus?
NHB follows CDC recommendations to:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, when you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from also getting sick.
• If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
• Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his/her eyes, nose or mouth.

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally published at the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System Hub (www.didvshub.net). The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

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