Fight the Flu – It starts with you! Published Nov. 3, 2022 By Greg Chadwick Air Force Materiel Command Health & Wellness Team WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Concerned about catching the flu? We are all at risk for getting and spreading the flu. Learn how to fight the flu - it starts with you! What is the flu? Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system - your nose, throat, and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the flu, but it’s not the same as the stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting. How does the flu spread? Influenza viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes, or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can pick up the germs from an object- such as a doorknob or table - and then transfer the viruses to your eyes, nose, or mouth. Flu germs can linger on surfaces for up to 8 hours. What are symptoms of the flu? Common signs and symptoms of the flu include: * Fever * Body aches * Chills and sweats * Headache * Sore throat * Coughing * Runny or stuffy nose * Extreme fatigue * Eye pain Most people who get the flu recover completely in one to two weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threating medical complications, such as pneumonia. What’s the difference between a cold and flu? The common cold and flu are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse. Colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly. With the flu, you are likely to run a fever for several days and have body aches, fatigue, and exhaustion, symptoms that are rarely caused by simple colds. Why should I get vaccinated against the flu? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual vaccination for everyone age 6 months or older as the best way to protect against the flu. “A flu vaccine will not provide 100% protection from getting the flu but can reduce the amount of time you’re sick and the severity of your illness or the potential for hospitalizations,” said Lt. Col. Michael Renkas, AFMC Command Public Health Officer. “To be truly effective, it can take several days to a couple weeks for your body to elicit a more extensive immune response from a flu vaccine.” Renkas advises individuals to get a flu vaccination well in advance of the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday to protect themselves, their family and peers upon returning to the workplace. Can flu shots cause the flu? The flu shot is made from dead viruses and cannot “give” you the flu. However, the vaccine can trigger an immune response from your body, so you may have a few mild symptoms, like achy muscles or a low-grade fever. Where can I get a flu vaccine? Influenza vaccinations for all military members are a mandatory requirement, and available through each installation’s Medical Group or at any participating TRICARE eligible pharmacies. TRICARE beneficiaries are also eligible for flu shots through immunization clinics on base, or at no cost at TRICARE eligible pharmacies. For the civilian workforce, all Federal Employee Health Benefit plans cover flu shots at no cost for members and are available at local retail pharmacies. You can find a flu vaccine location through vaccines.gov. Go to: https://www.vaccines.gov/ * Select "Find Flu Vaccines" at the top of the page * Enter your 5-digit zip code * Check your "Vaccine Options" * Select "Search for Flu Vaccines" to find a preferred location [Click on the location for further details and contact information] What are everyday healthy habits to help protect against the flu? 1. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based rub. 2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and touches his/her eyes, nose, or mouth. 3. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. 4. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. 5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with viruses that cause the flu at home and work. 6. Avoid large crowds. If you’re able to limit contact with people during flu season, you can reduce your risk of getting an infection. 7. Strengthen your immune system. A strong immune system helps your body fight off infections. To build your immunity, sleep at least 7-9 hours per night. Also, maintain a regular physical activity routine-at least 30 minutes, three times a week. In addition, follow a healthy, nutrient-rich eating plan. Limit sugar, junk foods, and fatty foods. Instead, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are full of vitamins and antioxidants, to promote good health. For more information on preventing the flu, visit USAFwellness.com or contact your local Civilian Health Promotion Services team. Comprehensive information on healthy habits to prevent the flu can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.