Prevent flu this year



by Airman Adam Branham
42nd Aeromedical Dental Squadron


11/24/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Influenza, also known as the flu, is not usually thought of as a life-threatening illness. But it can be very serious for the elderly, young children and people with other underlying health problems.

About 36,000 people die from flu-related causes in the United States every year. The flu is also responsible for about 200,000 hospitalizations. All together, 35 percent of children and 20 percent of adults are affected by influenza each year.

People with weakened immune systems run a higher risk of complications such as pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of their chronic medical condition. Some of these complications could lead to death.

There are many precautions that can be taken to keep from getting the flu. Frequent hand washing with soap and water is one important precaution. Another is to avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible since germs can spread easily this way. People should also practice healthy habits such as getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious food. Although these are all very good things to do to protect from the influenza virus, the best line of defense is the flu shot.

Active duty Air Force members are required to get the seasonal flu shot every year. This is because the influenza virus is always changing; although someone may be protected from it this year, it does not mean he or she will be protected from whatever new strain presents itself next year or the year after. Many people believe that if they don't get the flu shot at the beginning of the flu season, they are too late. This is not true; whether it is early fall or the middle of winter, it is never too late to get the flu shot.

There is no "cure" for the flu, which is why people must take precautions to prevent from coming down with the flu in the first place.