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By Greg Chadwick, Air Force Materiel Command Health & Wellness Team
/ Published November 01, 2022
Take steps to minimize the spread of the influenza virus this season.
Concerned about catching the flu? We are all at risk for getting and spreading the flu. Learn how to fight the flu – it starts with you!
What is the flu?
Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system – your nose, throat, and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the flu, but it’s not the same as the stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.
How does the flu spread?
Influenza viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes, or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can pick up the germs from an object- such as a doorknob or table - and then transfer the viruses to your eyes, nose, or mouth. Flu germs can linger on surfaces for up to 8 hours.
What are symptoms of the flu?
Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:
Most people who get the flu recover completely in one to two weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threating medical complications, such as pneumonia.
What’s the difference between a cold and flu?
The common cold and flu are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse. Colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly. With the flu, you are likely to run a fever for several days and have body aches, fatigue, and exhaustion, symptoms that are rarely caused by simple colds.
Why should I get vaccinated against the flu?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual vaccination for everyone age 6 months or older as the best way to protect against the flu.
“A flu vaccine will not provide 100% protection from getting the flu but can reduce the amount of time you’re sick and the severity of your illness or the potential for hospitalizations,” said Lt. Col. Michael Renkas, AFMC Command Public Health Officer. “To be truly effective, it can take several days to a couple weeks for your body to elicit a more extensive immune response from a flu vaccine.”
Renkas advises individuals to get a flu vaccination well in advance of the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday to protect themselves, their family and peers upon returning to the workplace.
Can flu shots cause the flu?
The flu shot is made from dead viruses and cannot “give” you the flu. However, the vaccine can trigger an immune response from your body, so you may have a few mild symptoms, like achy muscles or a low-grade fever.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Influenza vaccinations for all military members are a mandatory requirement, and available through each installation’s Medical Group or at any participating TRICARE eligible pharmacies. TRICARE beneficiaries are also eligible for flu shots through immunization clinics on base, or at no cost at TRICARE eligible pharmacies. For the civilian workforce, all Federal Employee Health Benefit plans cover flu shots at no cost for members and are available at local retail pharmacies. You can find a flu vaccine location through vaccines.gov.
Go to: https://www.vaccines.gov/
[Click on the location for further details and contact information]
What are everyday healthy habits to help protect against the flu?
For more information on preventing the flu, visit USAFwellness.com or contact your local Civilian Health Promotion Services team. Comprehensive information on healthy habits to prevent the flu can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.