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Flu Information

Marine gets flu shot
Influenza (the flu)
is a contagious respiratory illness caused by several types and subtypes of viruses. One or more virus strains cause a surge in flu nearly every year, and can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The viruses undergo continuous genetic changes, so people don’t achieve permanent immunity. Vaccines must be updated every year to combat the anticipated predominant strains.

Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. 

181030-M-M0241-0006 Photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya

Flu Types
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Seasonal flu—The illness that strikes every “flu season,” infect­ing 5%–20% of the U.S. population. Flu-related complications require 200,000 hospitalizations annually and kill 36,000 people on average. Flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

Avian (H5N1) Flu—Avian influenza (“bird flu”) is a disease caused by viruses that primarily infect birds but may also infect other animals, including humans. Currently, highly pathogenic H5N1, a specific strain of avian flu virus, has not mutated to permit easy human-to-human transmission. Most human cases of H5N1 occur in people directly exposed to infected poultry.

H1N1 flu—This influenza virus, initially called “swine flu,” was first detected in the United States in April 2009. It spread quickly around the world and fit the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of a pandemic by mid-June. On August 10, 2010, the World Health Organi­zation (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Com­mittee declared an end to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic globally; however it is likely that the H1N1 virus will continue to spread for years to come, like a regular seasonal influ­enza virus.

Marines and family members should contact their local primary care provider team to find out what the schedule is to provide vaccines locally.

  • People with flu can spread it to others up to 6 feet away.
  • It is spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk.
  • Droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
  • Adults can infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may be contagious longer than 7 days.
  • Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body.
  • The flu usually comes on suddenly.
  • People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Flu Prevention, Including Vaccination
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  • Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Do not share linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick without washing thorough­ly first.
  • Get vaccinated (flu shot) every year. The influenza vaccine is not ap­proved for children younger than 6 months of age.
  • People who have moderate-to-severe illness with or without a fever and people with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome should consult a physician before getting vaccinated.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription medications to ensure you have an adequate supply and expiration dates are not exceeded.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. (Source: CDC)

About H1N1 Flu
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The H1N1 virus spreads from person-to-person the same way that regular seasonal flu viruses spread—mainly by people with flu coughing or sneezing. People may also sometimes become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Like people with seasonal flu, those with H1N1 may be contagious from one day before they develop symptoms to as long as a week after they get sick. Children may be contagious for longer peri­ods.
  • The best way to prevent the H1N1 flu is to get the seasonal flu vaccine, which includes protection against the H1N1 flu virus.
  • Some existing prescription antiviral medications that suppress reproduction of viruses in the body to make your illness milder and prevent serious complica­tions are available.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discourages intentional exposure in hopes of gaining natural immunity through a mild infection.
  • The symptoms of H1N1 flu virus are similar to those of seasonal flu—fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fa­tigue. Some are more likely to experience vomiting and diarrhea with H1N1.
  • Seek medical care promptly at any of the following warning signs:
    • In children: fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish or gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids, severe or persistent vomiting, not waking up or not in­teracting, or flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
    • In adults: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, or flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
About Avian Flu
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 Seasonal Flu

 Avian Flu


Spread through droplets expelled during coughing and sneezing.


Spread through contact with infected birds, their droppings or blood, or surfaces exposed to them. However, due to the changing nature of flu viruses, it is possible that avian flu will mutate to spread from person to person. 
Symptoms High fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, and nausea (which may lead to vomiting and diarrhea). Similar to those of seasonal flu but may include eye infec­tions and severe respiratory diseases.
Who Is At Risk Those 65 years or older, those who live in long-term care facilities or need regular medical attention, those prone to asthma or other respiratory conditions, and young children (6–23 months). People of all ages are at risk. Past pandemic influenza outbreaks suggest that healthy young adults may be most at risk of exposure.
  • Be calm—stay informed and follow emergency plans.
  • Practice infection control
    • Good hygiene (especially washing hands) 
    • Social distancing
      • Limit direct contact by not shaking hands.
      • Telecommute or hold telephone or video conferences. 
      • Maintain personal space of three feet or more.
  • Limit exposure with sick people, and stay home if you are sick. 
  • Quarantine and isolation measures may be used to limit movement of people who may have been exposed to the disease and separate those infected with the disease.
  • Muster with your command if you are military or civilian personnel or a member of the selective reserves.
  1. Avian flu has been reported in wild and domesticated bird flocks in four regions at this writing, and there have been human cases in the same regions: Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
  2. Stay informed of potential risks and the latest medical guidance at your destination.
  3. Complete the emergency information page in your passport.
  4. Register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department website.
  5. Obtain adequate insurance that includes medical evacuation.
  6. Create a travel health kit that includes a thermometer and hand gel.
  7. For a "stay in place" response, stock a supply of water and food for a minimum of three days, two weeks recommended.
  8. Be aware of local laws and emergency plans.

Influenza can be prevented by vaccines and good hygiene.

  • Update flu shots and other vaccina­tions to boost immunity.
  • Get vaccinated every year because the seasonal flu vaccine is changed annually to help fight the most threatening strains.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription medications to ensure you have an adequate supply and expiration dates are not exceeded.
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean cutting boards and utensils, use a food thermometer to make sure poultry is cooked properly, and cook eggs until white and yolks are firm.
  • There is no danger from properly handled and cooked poultry.
  • No vaccine is commercially available for the current H5N1 avian flu virus, but some vaccine is being held in stockpiles. If a future strain, more capable of human-to-human transmission, emerges, it will likely require the development of a strain-specific vaccine.
  • Antiviral medicines can treat some cases of avian flu.

Set your own course through any hazard: stay informed, make a plan, build a kit.
Live Ready Marine Corps.

Where to Find Additional Information

The most current and authoritative information on flu is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm

Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center Pandemic Influenza Websitewww.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcphc/Pages/Home.aspx

Centers for Disease Control and Preventionhttp://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/

World Health Organization (WHO)www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en

For travelers and those stationed abroad, important sources are: 

World Health Organizationhttp://www.who.int/topics/influenza/en/
U.S. Department of Statehttps://www.state.gov/ofm/emergency/influenza/

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