Back to Top Skip to main content

Autumn ushers in season of falling under the weather with flu

A bronze bench and statue near the America Building at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, memorializes military dependent Trevor Lin. The 7-year-old's death in the fall of 2009 was attributed to influenza.  (Photo courtesy of Walter Reed-Bethesda) A bronze bench and statue near the America Building at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, memorializes military dependent Trevor Lin. The 7-year-old's death in the fall of 2009 was attributed to influenza. (Photo courtesy of Walter Reed-Bethesda)

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations

With autumn comes seasonal influenza, a contagious viral infection that may cause fever, cough, headache, sore throat, muscle and body aches, and fatigue. The flu virus is common; approximately 49 million Americans came down with it during the 2017-18 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu infections usually happen during the fall and winter, according to the CDC, with peak activity occurring between December and February. Most flu sufferers can count on feeling bad anywhere from a few days to up to two weeks, but they will recover.

Some people, however, develop complications that can become life-threatening. The CDC estimates that for the 2017-18 flu season, 960,000 hospitalizations and 79,000 deaths were linked to influenza.

"Certain groups are at high risk of flu-related complications," said Dr. Jay Montgomery, medical director of the Defense Health Agency's North Atlantic Region Vaccine Safety Hub, Immunization Healthcare Division. At-risk individuals include children ages 6 months to almost 5 years, adults 50 and older, people with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women, Montgomery said, citing statistics from the CDC.

So health care experts recommend that everyone 6 months and older – including the elderly, chronically ill people, and expectant mothers -- receive the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available. It's particularly important not only for individuals in the at-risk groups, but also for people who live with or care for them. The benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks of contracting the virus, health care experts say.

"The sooner sufficient herd immunity is achieved – which decreases the spread of the virus – the better," Montgomery said.

TRICARE covers the flu vaccine at military hospitals and clinics, participating network pharmacies, and TRICARE-authorized providers.

The flu vaccine is administered as an injection or nasal spray. The spray is not advised for pregnant women, people over 50, and those with specific medical conditions. The CDC says the flu shot is safe for pregnant women in any trimester and offers additional information on pregnancy and the flu vaccine.

Whether it's a shot or nasal spray, the vaccine appears to be effective for at least six months, Montgomery said. That's typically enough time to ensure protection for the duration of the flu season.

The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed and updated as needed annually, the CDC said, to match whatever flu viruses are in circulation. Flu vaccines usually protect against the viruses that are likely to be the most common.

Depending on the viruses in circulation, the level of protection of a particular season’s vaccine may be less than optimal, Montgomery said. However, he added, immunization is still an important tool in influenza infection control.

Active-duty, National Guard, and Reserve members are required to get the vaccine annually, Montgomery notes. Flu vaccination is also a requirement for Department of Defense civilian health care personnel, said Tara Reavey, chief of policy and program management for DHA's Immunization Healthcare Division.

The CDC notes that pandemic flu is caused by a strain of influenza that's easily able to infect people and effectively spread from person to person -- which is different from seasonal flu. Pandemic flu may lead to life-threatening complications in people regardless of their age and health. Flu pandemics have occurred four times in the past 100 years, the CDC said, with the most recent one in 2009-10. The CDC estimates that from April 2009 through January 2010, about 57 million people were infected with the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.

About 257,000 people were hospitalized during this time period and 12,000 died, including 7-year-old Trevor Lin. His father, retired Navy Capt. Henry Lin, says Trevor was an otherwise healthy and active boy before he got sick.

"I knew flu could be fatal, but I thought it happened only to people who had co-morbidities," or other chronic health conditions, said Lin, a bariatric surgeon in Maine.

Lin was on active duty as a general surgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, when Trevor came down with the flu. Lin's then-11-year-old daughter, Ashley, also got the flu and recovered. Lin's then 9-year-old son, Ryan, received an anti-viral prophylaxis after his younger brother died.

Lin said his children had received flu vaccines in previous years, but they had not been immunized yet that year because of a vaccine shortage. His children’s flu diagnoses came after Trevor died.

Since then, Lin has worked to strengthen the details of evaluating children with influenza by health care practitioners, and to improve the criteria for hospitalizations, particularly during medical crises and flu epidemics.

He also spearheaded the establishment of a bronze bench with a statue of Trevor near the America Building at Walter Reed-Bethesda. The memorial is inscribed with the words "Families Fighting Flu."

Lin said his fervent hope is that knowledge of his family's tragedy will prevent another family from enduring the same kind of loss.

"I want people to never forget there are ways we can prevent illness or death of our children," Lin said. "I want to make sure parents of otherwise healthy kids know about the importance of the flu vaccine."

The CDC offers more information for preventing and treating flu.

You also may be interested in...

DHA IPM 20-002: Southern Hemisphere Influenza Vaccination Program

Policy

This Defense Health Agency-Interim Procedures Memorandum (DHA-IPM), establishes the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) procedures to implement instructions, assign responsibilities, and prescribe procedures for the Southern Hemisphere Influenza Vaccination Program. All Active Duty, Selected Reserve, and National Guard members receive an annual influenza vaccination. Personnel who are traveling to, conducting a permanent change of station to, or are located in the Southern Hemisphere will receive the Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccine or obtain an exemption (e.g., medical or administrative) in accordance with guidance in paragraph 6.a. of Attachment 2. Military personnel residing in the Southern Hemisphere who have received the Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccine in accordance with Appendix 1, meet the annual influenza immunization requirement.

Immunization Tool Kit 9th Edition

Publication
3/9/2020

A practical reference that facilitates and enhances the global delivery of quality immunization healthcare to Department of Defense (DoD) beneficiaries and employees. The Defense Health Agency Immunization Healthcare Division (DHA-IHD) publishes the Immunization Tool Kit based on national recommendations, evidenced-based, peer-reviewed published medical literature, and clinical practice guidelines.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare

Sorry flu, not this year

Article
1/27/2020
U.S. Air Force Kathryn Klein, right, an aerospace medical service specialist with 182nd Medical Group, Illinois Air National Guard, administers an influenza vaccination during drill weekend at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., Dec. 8, 2019. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, and the best prevention is getting a flu vaccine each year. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Paul R. Helmig II)

The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Medical supply chain teamed with Department of Defense partners to provide 3.4 million doses of the influenza vaccine to service members, dependents and retirees.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Health Readiness | Influenza Summary and Reports | Influenza, Northern Hemisphere | Seasonal Influenza Resource Center 2019-20

Mid-season flu activity increase: How to keep healthy

Article
1/22/2020
Navy Hospital Corpsman Kenny Liu, from San Jose, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford's medical department, prepares a needle with a flu vaccination in the ship's hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Angel Thuy Jaskuloski)

Despite reports of increased flu activity in the U.S., the Military Health System remains vigilant

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Influenza Summary and Reports | Health Readiness | Influenza, Northern Hemisphere | Influenza, Southern Hemisphere | Vaccine Recommendations | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch

DTRA contributes to historic Ebola vaccine effort

Article
1/17/2020
Air Force Staff Sgt. Lee Nembhard, an aeromedical evacuation technician assigned to the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, straps a simulated Ebola patient to a litter during a Transport Isolation System training exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Megan Munoz)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves new Ebola vaccine

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance | Global Health Engagement | Global Health Engagement

HPV vaccine age limit raised by FDA to age 45

Article
1/14/2020
https://www.nfid.org/infectious-diseases/hpv/ Recent CDC and FDA guidance recommends that men and women up to 45 years of age get vaccinated to protect against the Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can cause certain cancers and genital warts. More than 14 million new HPV infections occur in the U.S. each year, and about 80 percent of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some point in their lives. (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases image)

HPV shot protects against a host of diseases in men, women

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Men's Health | Women's Health | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Vaccine Recommendations

World AIDS Day puts spotlight on landmark DoD study

Article
12/2/2019
Dr. John Mascola, director of the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center, discusses HIV vaccine progress at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Nov. 26, during a World AIDS Day commemoration.  (U.S. Army photo)

Vaccine study shows infection risk lowered by 31 percent, offering hope for future

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Research and Innovation | Global Health Engagement

Preventing seasonal influenza

Article
11/13/2019
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jaqueline Mbugua and members of the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Medical Group traveled to the Roxy Theater on Joint Base Cape Cod to provide flu shots to Airmen Nov. 2, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas Swanson).

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations

Army distributes 1.5 million flu vaccines

Article
10/10/2019
Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Alexander Wrigel (right), a medic assigned to Task Group 68.6, forward deployed to Camp Lemonnier, administers a flu shot to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Hector Ubinas. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joe Rullo)

Five to twenty percent of people in the U.S. are affected by the flu each season

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations | Medical Logistics

Measles Myths: The Measles Can Be Life-Threatening

Video
9/30/2019
Measles Myths: The Measles Can Be Life-Threatening

Measles can be life-threatening, especially for children and among people who have a compromised immune system.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

DoD, HHS implement Executive Order to modernize flu vaccines

Article
9/25/2019
Health care experts recommend that everyone 6 months and older – including the elderly, chronically ill people, and expectant mothers – receive the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available. (DoD photo)

New task force aims to increase efficiency, effectiveness

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations

Measles Myths: Hand Washing Alone Won't Prevent Measles

Video
9/23/2019
Measles Myths: Hand Washing Alone Won't Prevent Measles

Hand washing alone will not prevent the spread of measles. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

Measles Myths: Vaccines Are Safe

Video
9/17/2019
Measles Myths: Vaccines Are Safe

Vaccine components have been rigorously tested for safety. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

Measles Myths: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Video
9/12/2019
Measles Myths: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Vaccines that prevent measles do not cause autism. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella | Autism Care Demonstration

Prevent to Protect: Analia

Video
8/30/2019
Prevent to Protect: Analia

Cancer left 5-year-old Analia Pages unable to get vaccinated. Her father, Master Sgt. Edward Pages, has to take extra steps to protect her from diseases she’s susceptible to.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Preventive Health | Immunizations
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 6

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.