Flu advice for upcoming season

  • Published
  • By Maj. John Freiler
  • Eglin Allergy Clinic
Influenza, more commonly referred to as "the flu," is a highly contagious viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs. Influenza occurs most often in the late fall, winter and early spring, so peak occurrences are just around the corner.

It is a serious infection which afflicts more than 60 million Americans every year and more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized and about 36,000 die from influenza-related complications.

The best way to protect against influenza is to receive an influenza vaccination every year. There are two way to receive the influenza vaccine: the "flu shot" and the nasal-spray flu vaccine or "Flu mist."

It is mandatory for active duty and reserve military members to receive the immunization through a military treatment facility, annually. Besides having an annual flu vaccination line, the vaccination will be available at the immunization clinic and at Eglin's primary care clinics during scheduled appointments.

A new change this year, allows Tricare beneficiaries to also receive the seasonal flu vaccine without a prescription and with no out-of-pocket expense at Tricare retail network pharmacies. This coverage is available to all Tricare beneficiaries eligible to use the Tricare retail pharmacy benefit.

Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September or as soon as vaccine is available and continue throughout the influenza season, into December, January, and beyond. This is because the timing and duration of influenza seasons vary. While influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time influenza activity peaks in January or later.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against 2009 H1N1, and two other influenza viruses (an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus). The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international surveillance and scientists' estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year.

The vaccination is recommended for everyone six-months-old and older.  The flu vaccination is highly recommended to the following people:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than five, but especially children younger than two years old
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu such as health care workers, household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu and household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than six months of age.
  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination and people who developed Guillain-Barr√© syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician.
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.

Tricare beneficiaries can call their local Tricare retail network pharmacy to ensure participation in the vaccine program and the vaccine is in stock. To locate a participating retail network pharmacy, click here or call Express Scripts at 877-363-1303.

The active duty vaccine line is scheduled for Oct 18-22 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the 9th Special Operations Squadron auditorium. The auditorium is located on West F Avenue, across from the library on the East side of the base.