Navy Prepares Sailors, Families for Annual Flu Season

From Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

WASHINGTON -- The Navy recognizes August as Immunization Awareness Month.

With flu season quickly approaching, Navy leadership are urging service members, veterans and family members to be aware of the risks of seasonal flu and to receive their scheduled vaccinations.

Influenza or "flu" has the potential to significantly impact Navy force readiness and missions. In the United States, influenza results in more than 25 million reported cases, more than 150,000 hospitalizations due to serious complications and more than 30,000 deaths annually.

According to the Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson Jr., immunization is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of seasonal influenza.

"Influenza is not the common cold," said Robinson. "It can be a severe to life-threatening disease and getting an annual flu vaccine immunization protects us from getting the disease or becoming severely ill. The seasonal flu vaccine not only helps protect vaccinated individuals, but also helps protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of the disease."

Navy medical officials anticipate the supply of vaccine to Navy medical treatment facilities will arrive by late September and do not anticipate any availability issues like those experienced last fall.

This year's seasonal influenza vaccine contains three inactive virus components based on an estimate of the most prevalent strains for the upcoming season. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain is incorporated as one of the three 2010-2011 seasonal influenza vaccine components. New influenza strains with the potential to become pandemic have not yet been identified for 2010-2011 but the possibility remains that a new virus strain could emerge, become a pandemic and require an additional influenza vaccine. The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center will closely monitor the emergence of potential new virus strains.

"Let me assure you that the vaccine is safe, effective, and will be widely available beginning next month," said Robinson.

Robinson also states that all personnel and their family members can limit the effects of the seasonal and H1N1 flu by adopting some basic preventive health practices such as covering their mouth when they cough, washing hands often, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

"Following these simple good practices will help us all stay healthy during this flu season," said Robinson.

For more information, NAVADMIN 255/10 details the Navy's Influenza Vaccination and Reporting Policy and is located at
http://www.npc.navy.mil/NR/rdonlyres/C24F4F7E-721A-4DC4-8796-96EACD4F7DEA/0/NAV10255.txt.