Flu vaccinations available for Soldiers at APG

Spc. Xiaoxuan Xu, of the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, prepares to vaccinate APG Deputy Garrison Chaplain Capt. Jonathan Ginder during a scheduled flu vaccination session at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Oct. 17, 2016. | Photo by Rachel Ponder, APG News

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – October means the beginning of flu season, and health professionals at Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic are reminding the APG community to get their annual flu vaccination.

Influenza or “the flu” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu can cause mild to severe illnesses, and at times can lead to death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recommends a yearly vaccination for ages 6 months old and older as the best defense against the flu virus.

Capt. Maritzabel Gonzalez, KUSHAC deputy chief of Preventive Medicine, said the flu shot is mandatory for Soldiers, unless a medical or an administrative exemption exists.

“At this time we have received doses for the following populations: active duty, pediatric population [infants 6 to 35 months], occupationally required [Department of Defense civilians] in designated positions, and [TRICARE] beneficiaries who are medically at high-risk for complications from influenza,” she said.

Gonzalez said individuals who are medically at high-risk for complications from influenza include people age 65 years and older, pregnant women, those with a weakened immune system and certain health conditions like chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular, renal, neurological or metabolic disorders.

DOD contractors who receive medical surveillance examinations in the Occupational Health Clinic, but are not otherwise DOD health care beneficiaries are not eligible to receive the influenza vaccination through the Occupational Health Clinic.

“We encourage contractors to contact their health care provider or health insurance company for information on where to obtain the vaccination,” she said.

According to Gonzalez, in the next few weeks KUSAHC should receive additional doses for the general TRICARE beneficiary population.

Due to flu vaccination availability, KUSHAC is not providing the flu vaccination to the general DOD civilian population at this time.

Flu prevention tips

In addition to getting a flu vaccination, the CDC recommends preventing the spread of the flu by:

  • Staying away from people who are sick.
  • Staying home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities.
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Immediately throw away used tissue in the trash.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, which spreads germs.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting hard surfaces and objects that may be contaminated, including bathroom surfaces, kitchen counters, and toys for children. Wipe them with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
  • Children with flu-like symptoms should be kept in a separate room from others in the household, if possible.

Capt. Jenny Allen, head nurse of the Primary Care Clinic, recommends that people wash their hands with hot water and soap for at least 30 seconds.

“Sing the alphabet song while you are washing your hands,” she said.

At work, Allen recommends people clean their desks, keyboards and phones frequently, especially if others share the same work area.

Flu vaccination schedule

KUSAHC has scheduled vaccination dates for active-duty units at APG through Oct. 28. Soldiers who miss scheduled vaccinations can receive a vaccination on any scheduled vaccination date.

Active duty service members assigned to units with less than 10 Soldiers, who work on APG South (Edgewood), as well as occupationally-required DOD may obtain the flu vaccine on a walk-in basis at the APG South Occupational Health Clinic each Wednesday from 8 to 11:30 a.m., and 8 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m. each Friday.

For more information, call the APG Influenza Hotline at 410-306-3588 or contact Gonzalez at 410-278-1773 or email maritzabel.gonzalez.mil@mail.mil.

Vaccination availability is posted on the KUSAHC website, http://kusahc.nrmc.amedd.army.mil/SitePages/Home.aspx.

For more information visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm, www.flu.gov, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO

Story by Rachel Ponder, APG News