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Homeland Security

Post fights flu with prevention, education

Oct 8, 2009

By STEVE REEVES, Fort Jackson Leader

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Health officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated against both the seasonal and H1N1 strains of the influenza virus.

"Protect yourself and your loved ones," said Lt. Col. Marilyn Lazarz, Moncrief Army Community Hospital's officer in charge of preventive medicine. "Everyone has to share the responsibility in the battle against seasonal influenza and H1N1."

While the seasonal flu is a concern as always, preventing the spread of H1N1 at Fort Jackson remains the focus as officials continue to monitor the situation closely.

Seasonal flu immunizations are currently available on post. The Department of Defense is purchasing 2.7 million doses of the H1N1 immunization. Fort Jackson is a high priority for H1N1 immunizations, which are expected to arrive on post later this month.
Lazarz said Fort Jackson is aggressively monitoring Soldiers hospitalized with flu-like illnesses.

"All confirmed cases at Fort Jackson are reported to the Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control," she said.

Lazarz said it's important that people be immunized for both strains of influenza.

"You need both vaccines to be fully protected," she said. "These are separate vaccines. The bottom line is to get both vaccines."

Since April, Fort Jackson has reported 220 confirmed cases of H1N1. One of those cases resulted in the death of a Soldier.

Nationwide, as of Oct. 2, there have been 9,000 hospitalizations and 600 deaths attributed to H1N1.

"Fort Jackson does have plans in place to prevent significant outbreaks," Lazarz said. "The best defense is the H1N1 immunization."

While much of the media's focus has been on H1N1, seasonal flu also concerns officials. The seasonal flu is responsible for 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lazarz said easy steps can help prevent the spread of both types of flu.

"Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds," she said. "Use hand sanitizer if you can't wash your hands. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing."

Even handshaking should be avoided, Lazarz said. "We're telling people to do the 'fist bump,'" she said.

Lazarz said people should avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth, because germs are spread that way.

"Influenza viruses can live on surfaces and can infect individuals for two to eight hours," she said.

Avoid close contact with people who have the flu or exhibit flu-like symptoms, Lazarz said.

People who are sick with the flu or have flu-like symptoms are encouraged to stay home and not return to work until at least 24 hours after the fever has abated.

Hand washing stations have been set up at locations throughout Fort Jackson, and hand sanitizer is being widely distributed.

Special attention is being paid to Soldiers going through Basic Combat Training because they live and train in such close proximity to one another.

Barracks are being cleaned on a regular basis and Soldiers' bunks are being placed farther apart. New Soldiers arriving at the 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception) are being screened for flu-like symptoms.
Lazarz said such precautions should limit the spread of seasonal flu and H1N1.

"Fort Jackson is committed to the health and welfare of its Soldiers, families and civilian employees and retirees," she said. "Our mission is to limit the spread of the flu and any contagious disease."

Col. Nancy Hughes, MACH commander, said 604 shots were given Monday, the first day of Fort Jackson's flu drive.

Sgt. 1st Class Fredrico Kinsey of HHC Training Support Battalion brought his wife and 5-year-old son to receive the seasonal flu immunization Monday, the first day offered on post.

"My wife is pregnant so we wanted to make sure we got hers as soon as possible," Kinsey said. "We're just kind of taking precautions."

Editor's note: Crystal Lewis Brown contributed to this report.

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