October 17, 2013 --
Health officials recommend the public takes the flu seriously.
Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany is now providing annual influenza vaccines to service members, retirees and their families. The vaccine is considered the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
At NBHC Albany, patients can walk-in for flu vaccines Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Flu vaccine walk-ins will be conducted from 7:30 a.m. to noon on the first and third Wednesdays each month to facilitate command training.
The flu vaccine is required for all active-duty military personnel, selected reserves and health care workers, and is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for everyone, ages six months and older.
“The flu can be very dangerous, especially to the young and elderly,” Lt. Cmdr. Raymond Bristol, officer-in-charge, NBHC Albany, said. “Vaccination is the primary means of reducing seasonal flu illness and its complications. (The) vaccine protects both the individual and the community as a whole, by reducing and preventing the spread of the disease.”
NBHC Albany offers two kinds of flu vaccine, according to Bristol. Flu mist — an intranasal vaccine that is squirted into the nostril — can be given to healthy patients, ages 2- 49.
The injectable vaccine (flu shot) is given to pregnant women, diabetic patients, asthmatics and anyone with a chronic medical condition such as emphysema.
The shot is safe for pregnant women at any time during pregnancy, according to the CDC. Since babies aren’t able to get the vaccine until age six months, the mother is the baby’s best protection. Breastfeeding also helps protect babies, thanks to the protective flu antibodies that appear in mom’s milk about two weeks after immunization.
Information provided on the CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov, explains that potential side effects of the vaccines are usually mild.
The flu mist can cause mild congestion and a runny nose, but it can’t grow in the lungs and can’t cause pneumonia.
The flu shot can cause some redness and pain at the injection site, muscle ache, and a low-grade fever — but because the virus is completely inactivated, it cannot possibly cause influenza.
According to the CDC, seasonal epidemics of influenza occur every year in the United States, usually between October and April.
Typically, epidemics cause thousands to tens of thousands of deaths and about 200,000 hospitalizations each year in the U.S. A vaccine to prevent influenza has been available since the 1940s.
Influenza is a virus that infects the nose, throat, windpipe and lungs. It is highly contagious, spreading from person to person by coughing, shaking hands, sneezing or talking closely with another person.
Typical flu symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, congestion, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing. Flu can lead to more severe infections like pneumonia — especially in the elderly and the immunocompromised.
H1N1 flu virus has similar symptoms, sometimes also including vomiting and diarrhea, and can cause severe infections in younger patients, pregnant women and children.
For more information about NBHC vaccines, call 229-639-7815 or to learn about the flu, visit www.cdc.gov.