Back to Top Skip to main content

Mid-season flu activity increase: How to keep healthy

Navy Hospital Corpsman Kenny Liu, from San Jose, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford's medical department, prepares a needle with a flu vaccination in the ship's hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Angel Thuy Jaskuloski) Navy Hospital Corpsman Kenny Liu, from San Jose, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford's medical department, prepares a needle with a flu vaccination in the ship's hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Angel Thuy Jaskuloski)

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Influenza Summary and Reports | Health Readiness | Influenza, Northern Hemisphere | Influenza, Southern Hemisphere | Vaccine Recommendations | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch

Influenza can affect anyone, from the everyday civilian to the active-duty service member. Current trends show an increase in flu activity at the halfway point of the season. While it’s too early in the season to determine the overall severity of the flu, the Military Health System maintains readiness and resourcefulness to protect the armed forces and their loved ones from effects of the flu.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found an elevated level of influenza activity earlier in the season than is typically observed around this time. As of Jan. 16, the CDC estimates that there have been approximately 4,800 flu-related deaths and 87,000 hospitalizations nationwide this season. Active surveillance by the Defense Health Agency’s Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division (AFHSD) has also found high levels of influenza activity among military personnel.

Despite the increase in activity, MHS is prepared to sustain the health of service members and their families. All military personnel are required to be immunized against the flu annually to decrease susceptibility to infection.

“Immunization is important given that military personnel live and work in close proximity with other members of the community,” said Navy Cmdr. Shawn Clausen of AFHSD’s Epidemiology and Analysis section.

While involvement in patient-care activities and participation in large gatherings increases the risk of infection, early data and discussions with the CDC show that the risk among military members and the general population appears to be similar. To get ahead of this risk, the Department of Defense has already distributed more than 3.3 million doses of influenza vaccine throughout the military. As of Jan. 16, approximately 90 percent of all service members have been vaccinated.

Vaccination is recommended not just for military members, but also their loved ones, according to Janet Brunader, a research nurse in the Vaccine Safety & Evaluation section of the Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Healthcare Division.

“The good news is that although seasonal influenza vaccine is not always a perfect match, it is still the best way to provide protection against influenza disease,” she said. Brunader suggests that everyone 6 months or older get a flu shot each year in the fall. Children over 6 months of age but under age 8 years who have never had a flu shot should get two shots – one shot followed by another at least four weeks later. Children who have had at least one flu shot in the past only need to get one flu shot each year.

There are numerous ways in addition to vaccination to keep safe against the flu.

“One helpful suggestion, in addition to washing your hands before eating or handling food, is to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or face with your unwashed hands,” Brunader said. “This will help prevent spreading germs from surfaces to your eyes, nose, or mouth.”

Since flu viruses can also spread through the air, Brunader suggests staying at least six feet away from people who are coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose. If you already have the flu, coughing into a tissue or the bend of the elbow will reduce the spread of viruses. Those suspecting they have the flu should contact a health care provider within two days of the symptoms. Early treatment with anti-influenza drugs can shorten the duration of illness.

Beneficiaries can receive flu vaccines through their closest military hospital and retail networks. TRICARE representatives can help determine how to get the vaccine if a person is unable to visit a military hospital. MHS also has an archive of influenza resources for beneficiaries to learn more about the flu and what they need to do to keep safe during the season.

Among the four types of flu, influenza A and B are the main two strains that cause “flu season.” AFHSD has paid close attention to both of these strains this year.

“As reflected in the U.S. among civilian populations [this season], the majority of laboratory-confirmed influenza-positive specimens continued to be influenza subtype B [Victoria lineage],” said Navy Cmdr. Mark Scheckelhoff from AFHSD’s Global Emerging Infections Surveillance section. "In recent weeks, the incidence of influenza A, specifically A(H1N1)pdm09, has increased steadily and appears that it will soon become the most predominant strain.”

According to early data from AFHSD, most of the U.S. is experiencing at least “moderate” levels of flu and flu-like activity, with the exception of a few states. Globally, temperate areas of Europe are also observing increased incidences of the flu, with areas of Central and Western Africa continuing to have elevated activity as well. Most of South and Central America and most areas of South and Southeast Asia are reporting “low” levels of activity, but the World Health Organization characterizes other areas of Asia as either “elevated” or “increasing.”

To monitor progression of the flu through the season, AFHSD produces a tri-service consolidated influenza report weekly to reflect data from military hospitals. The CDC also produces a more holistic view on how influenza is affecting the rest of the country.

You also may be interested in...

Influenza Surveillance Program

Policy

Sentinel Sites for the 2014-2015 Influenza Surveillance Program

DoD Instruction 6025.19: Individual Medical Readiness

Policy

This instruction implements policy, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures to improve IMR in accordance with the authority in Reference (b). This implementation is in accordance with sections 1074a, 10149, and 10206 of Title 10, United States Code and DoDD 6200.04 (References (c) and (d), respectively)

Immunizations and Chemoprophylaxis for the Prevention of Infectious Diseases

Policy
  • Identification #: Army Regulation 40–562 BUMEDINST 6230.15B AFI 48–110_IP CG COMDTINST M6230.4G
  • Date: 10/7/2013
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Immunization Healthcare

Deployment Limiting Mental Disorders and Psychotrophic Medications

Policy

Policy memorandum about Deployment Limiting Mental Disorders and Psychotrophic Medications

Guidance on Medications for Prophylaxis of Malaria 13-002

Policy

This document provides guidance and best practices for the chemoprophylaxis (use of medication to prevent malaria) of Service members serving in malaria endemic regions.

DoD Laboratories Participating in CDC Laboratory Response Network 03-213

Policy

Department of Defense (DoD) laboratories participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-sponsored Laboratory Response Network (LRN) do so with the approval and support of their respective Military Department Surgeons General.

  • Identification #: 03-213
  • Date: 3/26/2013
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Health Readiness

Medical Planning and Programming Lexicon

Policy

DoD Instruction Number 6490.11: DoD Policy Guidance for Management of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion in the Deployed Setting

Policy

This instruction establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and provides procedures on the management of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), also known as concussion, in the deployed setting.

Access to Medical Services Who were Exposed to Rabies in Combat Theater

Policy

Civilian Employee Health and and Occupational Health Program

Policy

U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps COSC Policy Update

Policy

Mental Health Assessments for Members of the Armed Forces Deployed in Connection with a Contingency Operation

Policy

INTEGRATION OF MILITARY VACCINE AGENCY AND VACCINE HEALTHCARE CENTERS NETWORK

Policy

Clinical Policy for the Administration of the Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed

Policy

CJCSI 3137.01D The Functional Capabilities Board (FCB)

Policy
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 16 - 30 Page 2 of 4

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.