Navy Hospital Corpsman Kenny Liu, from San Jose, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s medical department, prepares a flu-vaccination needle in the ship’s hangar bay.

Influenza can affect anyone. Current trends show an increase in flu activity at the season’s halfway point. While it’s too early to determine the flu’s overall severity this year, the Military Health System is ready to protect the armed forces and their loved ones from the flu.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found an elevated level of influenza activity earlier in the season than typically observed around this time. As of Jan. 16, the CDC estimates there have been about 4,800 flu-related deaths and 87,000 hospitalizations nationwide this season.

Despite the increase in activity, MHS is prepared to sustain the health of Service members and their families. All military personnel are required to be immunized against the flu annually.

“Immunization is important, given that military personnel live and work in close proximity with other members of the community,” said Navy Cmdr. Shawn Clausen of AFHSD’s Epidemiology and Analysis section.

While involvement in patient-care activities and participation in large gatherings increases the risk of infection, early data and discussions with the CDC show that the risk among military members and the general population appears to be similar. To get ahead of this risk, the Defense Department has already distributed more than 3.3 million doses of influenza vaccine throughout the military. As of Jan. 16, about 90 percent of all Service members have been vaccinated.

Vaccination is recommended for military members and their loved ones, according to Janet Brunader, a research nurse in the Vaccine Safety & Evaluation section of the Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Healthcare Division.

“The good news is that, although seasonal influenza vaccine is not always a perfect match, it is still the best way to provide protection against influenza disease,” she

said. Brunader suggests that everyone 6 months or older get a flu shot each year in the fall. Children 6 months to 8 years who have never had the shot should get two shots, four weeks apart.

Protect against the flu

Belvoir Safety Office

• Wash your hands often, and especially after shaking hands or touching a doorknob or phone.

• Keep your hands away from your face. Without realizing it, you probably touch your eyes, nose, and mouth many times a day.

• Maintain your health to keep your immune system in good shape.

• Talk to your doctor about a flu shot.

• Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze to keep from spreading the infection. Dispose of tissues properly and wash your hands frequently.

• If you’re sick and contagious, stay home, to prevent spreading viruses to others.