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What Andrews needs to know about Influenza

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- Influenza, commonly called the "flu" is a respiratory illness caused by a virus and spreads from person to person. 

Each year in the United States five to 20 percent of the population gets the flu. Some people, such as senior citizens, children, and individuals with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. 

Influenza activity in the U.S. has been moderately low so far this season, but it is increasing. Public Health surveillance here at Andrews and in surrounding communities shows that influenza cases are on the rise. Flu activity typically reaches its peak in the U.S. in January or February, so individuals who haven't received their flu vaccine are encouraged to get one now. Flu activity can occur as late as May so getting a vaccine later in the season can still offer protection. 

The Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) recommends to "Take 3" to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu: 

1. Vaccinate: Take time to get a vaccine. Getting a vaccine is very important for people at high risk for serious flu complications and their close contacts. People at high risk include infants, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease, and people 65 and older. 

To receive the flu vaccine, you can make an appointment with your PCM or simply go to the Immunization Clinic. 

2. Stop Germs: Take everyday preventative actions. When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or cough into your sleeve, not your hands. 

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you are not near water, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner. Stay away as much as you can from people who are sick. If you get the flu, stay home from work or school. If you are sick, do not go near other people so that you don't make them sick. 

3. Antiviral Drugs: Take antiviral drugs if your doctor says you need them. There are antiviral drugs that can treat the flu or prevent infection with flu viruses. See your provider if you develop flu-like symptoms (usually high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches), or are exposed to the flu before you get a flu vaccine. 

If you come down with the flu, make sure you get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco products. Reduce your contact with others and cover your cough.