Medical Team at Camp Lemonnier Provides Influenza Vaccines

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti - Petty Officer 3rd Class Yazmin Garcia administers the annual flu vaccine to Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Barker, October 16, 2009. The Expeditionary Medical Facility has established a designated influenza team to educate camp personnel about the effects of the influenza virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest the best way to prevent seasonal flu is to receive a vaccination each fall and practice good health habits. (Photo by Master Sergeant Carlotta Holley, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa) CJTF-HOA Photo CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti - Petty Officer 3rd Class Yazmin Garcia administers the annual flu vaccine to Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Barker, October 16, 2009. The Expeditionary Medical Facility has established a designated influenza team to educate camp personnel about the effects of the influenza virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest the best way to prevent seasonal flu is to receive a vaccination each fall and practice good health habits. (Photo by Master Sergeant Carlotta Holley, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa)

A team from the Expeditionary Medical Facility in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti provided influenza vaccines to service members assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa and Camp Lemonier, October 15 and 16, 2009.

Influenza is a viral disease that can be spread by coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions and one which hospitalizes more than 200,000 people and kills more than 30,000 people every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Getting a shot is a whole lot easier than trying to get rid of the flu," said Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Barker, assigned to the 81st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron (EMF).

The EMF established a team to provide prevention, response planning and education to camp personnel about the effects of the influenza virus.

"The influenza virus has the potential to have devastating effects on our military operations," said Lieutenant junior grade Michael Rucker, assistant public health emergency officer. "Therefore it is vital for us to educate everyone on our installation of the importance of getting vaccinated and preventing the spread of germs."

According to the CDC, the flu virus can cause high fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, fatigue and muscle aches. It can also lead to pneumonia and it can make existing medical conditions worse. The flu virus is constantly mutating; therefore, the vaccines are constantly updated. For this reason, an annual vaccination is recommended.

There are now two methods of administering the vaccination. One is the live intranasal influenza vaccine (LAIV). It is a weakened virus that is sprayed into the nostrils. The other is the inactivated influenza vaccine given by injection.

"The intranasal is less painful than the shot," said Petty Officer 1st Class Dyonisha Anderson. "It felt funny, but was glad it was not a needle in my arm."

"I prefer the intranasal because it smells like flowers," said U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant James Quillen, country logistics officer.

According to the CDC, the LAIV is not for everyone. The medical personnel have a checklist to complete before the vaccination to determine which method is best.

"I prefer the shot; it's quicker and less invasive," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ebony Franklin. "However, I get sick after getting either vaccine."

The vaccine can sometimes cause mild reactions or side effects such as runny nose, cough, sore throat and other flu-like symptoms. However, severe reactions are rare. The CDC recommends contacting a physician immediately if any unusual conditions occur.

"I've vaccinated more than 1,000 people on Camp Lemonnier and no one has complained of severe side effects," said Rucker. "There have been a few sore throats within the first 24 hours, but that's it."

The CDC recommends good health habits to help protect you against the flu, including avoiding close contact with people who are sick, isolating yourself when sick, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and keeping your hands clean.

"Hand-washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of germs," Rucker said. "In the absence of soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are just as effective."

"I always wash my hands before eating," said Quillen. "I don't remember ever having the flu. I've certainly never had it since I joined the Army."

It is also a good habit to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing your stress, drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious food, according to the CDC.

The 2009 seasonal influenza vaccine does not protect from the H1N1 virus. Currently, the EMF expects a shipment of the H1N1 vaccine to arrive in November or December, said Rucker.

"It is predicted that most of the influenza cases this season will be caused by the novel H1N1 strain of influenza," Rucker said. "However, statistics thus far have shown that the disease caused by H1N1 is relatively mild to moderate and is just as preventable and treatable as seasonal influenza."

Early vaccination and practicing good hygiene to prevent the spread of germs are the best ways to protect against any type of influenza virus.

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