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Naval Hospital Bremerton Prepares for Seasonal Flu Vaccinations

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS090918-11
Release Date: 9/18/2009 2:31:00 PM

By Douglas H. Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

NAVAL HOSPITAL BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- It's September, which means football season has started, schools are back in session and its seasonal flu time.

Naval Hospital Bremerton is gearing up to provide annual vaccinations and anticipating the arrival of necessary supplies, enough to accommodate our uniformed service members and beneficiaries in the area. Updated information can be accessed at NHB's Flu Hot Line 360-315-4469.

"As soon as our ordered supplies get here, we will implement our vaccination plan," said Lt. Cmdr, Sandra Johnson, NHB's department head for Preventive Medicine. "We know people are asking for more information. We also want everyone to remember that there is a difference between the seasonal flu and H1N1 flu. They are not the same. We will first give vaccinations for seasonal flu, then commence with H1N1 vaccinations later on when we get that shipment."

"The health and wellbeing of all of our personnel and beneficiaries has always been and will continue to be our top priority," said Captain Mark E. Brouker, Naval Hospital Bremerton Commanding Officer.

"This will be a unique influenza season and continued education will be the key," Johnson stated. "Seasonal flu vaccinations as well as H1N1 flu vaccinations will be both be offered when available. The goal is to get everyone their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as we can. The timing is earlier than last year because of the need to protect our population against seasonal flu before the additional vaccination campaign against the H1N1 strain starts."

Annual seasonal influenza vaccinations are required for all active duty military personnel, selected Reserves and healthcare workers. Navy Medicine's seasonal influenza vaccine immunization program is designed to protect Sailors and Marines, mission-essential healthcare personnel, and eligible beneficiaries. As has also been the case in the past, NHB will host "vaccination clinics" at NHB and Bangor. Exact dates and locations will be publicized soon.

"Our experience in May and June with H1N1 flu reinforced the need to protect ourselves," said Tom Shirk, NHB Infection Control coordinator, who also recommends for everyone to continue proper personal hygiene at all times. "It's the little things that add up to the whole, such as hand washing, covering a cough, and staying home if ill. We now know it's important and it's up to us to not only set the example, but ensure our family and friends do the same."

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. Navy Medicine will be closely monitoring the both influenza viruses over the coming weeks and months.

"Vaccination for both types of flu viruses is extremely important this year," continued Shirk, "because it will prevent or reduce the severity of either illness."

Influenza is not the common cold. Influenza can be a severe to life-threatening disease and getting an annual influenza vaccine immunization (either the traditional shot in the arm or the newer nasal spray vaccine) protects many people from getting the disease or becoming severely ill.

There are also multiple steps, attests Shirk, that can be done daily to mitigate the potential spread of the flu.

"Besides hand washing with soap and water, we encourage everyone, to use our alcohol-based hand sanitizers," commented Shirk. "They are phenomenally effective in eliminating the transfer of a virus. We have increased the number of dispensers we have in Naval Hospital Bremerton so anyone entering and leaving, or waiting by the elevators can use them."

Influenza is thought to spread mainly from people touching something with influenza viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. 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 uncommonly 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.

"I encourage parents to get a thermometer for home-use if they don't have one already. If a family member is running a fever of 100.4 or greater, has a cough and/or sore throat then it is very possible that they have influenza," noted Shirk. "If anyone is concerned that their symptoms are not consistent with a mild case of the flu, they should contact their medical provider and/or seek medical attention. For those with mild symptoms, recovering at home with over the counter medications for symptom relief is usually all that is needed."

According to the CDC, every year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from influenza complications and about 36,000 people die from influenza-related causes. General information of seasonal influenza can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.

What can people do to protect themselves against the flu virus? Naval Hospital Bremerton 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.

Different Influenza Types:
• Seasonal flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.
• Novel H1N1 flu is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in the US in April 2009, and has spread to many countries around the world.
• Pandemic flu is virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person.
• Avian Flu is caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally among wild birds. Low pathogenic avian flu is common in birds and causes few problems. Highly pathogenic H5N1 is deadly to domestic fowl, can be transmitted from birds to humans, and is deadly to humans. There is virtually no human immunity and human vaccine availability is very limited.
Bird Flu is commonly used to refer to avian flu. Bird flu viruses infect birds, including chickens, other poultry and wild birds such as ducks.

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