By Lt. Col. (Dr.) Terence Mitchell
21st Medical Group
PETERSON AFB, Colo. — The end of summer signals the start of snowy weather, winter holidays and — worst of all — flu season.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and, at times, lead to death. Every year in the United States, an average of 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and an estimated 36,000 people die annually from the flu.
The 21st Medical Group kicked off the flu season Aug. 23 by starting to vaccinate all active duty members.
The initial shipment of flu vaccine has arrived and 21st MDG is currently vaccinating medical professionals, first responders and child development center personnel. The medical group has a limited supply of the vaccine and will make it available through the immunizations clinic and scheduled flu lines. All active duty members must receive their flu vaccine from a military medical treatment facility. An annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older.
The Flu Mist nasal vaccine will be available in early September and is mandatory for all active duty members who do not fall into a high-risk group. Anyone who falls into a high-risk group — people who have weakened immune systems, are pregnant, have long-term health problems, or are more than 49 years old — will receive the flu shot.
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year. Hand washing, covering your cough, and staying home if you are sick are also proven methods in avoiding the flu and other common illnesses.
Call the Flu-Line at 556-3588 for questions or concerns about the vaccines, or call 524-2273 or 526-2273 to leave a message for your primary care provider.
(Information gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For additional information go to www.cdc.gov/flu.)