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    Helping to Weather the Winter Flu Season at Naval Hospital Bremerton

    Helping to Weather the Winter Flu Season at Naval Hospital Bremerton

    Photo By Petty Officer 3rd Class Meagan Christoph | 191123-N-BC190-1030 NAVAL BASE KITSAP-BANGOR, Wash. (Nov. 23, 2019) Hospitalman Kaylie...... read more read more



    Story by Douglas Stutz 

    Naval Hospital Bremerton

    The New Year’s winter for Puget Sound has brought freezing temperatures, inclement weather, and a steady increase in influenza cases.

    Naval Hospital Bremerton might not be able to change climate concerns, but can certainly help prevent and protect patients from the ongoing flu season.

    “The flu season typically lasts from late fall through the early spring. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu season peaks between December and February. Therefore, more cases of the flu are being reported now than during any other time of the year,” said Lt. Brett M. Burnham, Naval Hospital Bremerton Preventative Medicine head, noting that influenza is not the common cold.

    Influenza can be severe and life-threatening to some. Across the U.S., the CDC estimates there have been more than 9.7 million flu cases (out of approximately 330 million) resulting in 4,800 flu-related deaths, including 32 pediatric fatalities.

    “The best way to avoid the flu is to receive an annual flu vaccination. Because flu viruses are highly adaptable and change or mutate often, each year the flu vaccine is uniquely designed to target the most prevalent and dangerous flu strains that will be present throughout a specific flu season,” stressed Burnham.

    According to Cmdr. Dan McClure, NHB Quality Management department head, nationally, the positive test results are trending approximately 30 percent Influenza A strain and 70 percent for Influenza B strain.

    “As of Dec. 31, 2019, at NHB we have tested 342 patients and have had nine positive for Influenza A and 52 positive for Influenza B,” commented McClure.

    The CDC notes that Washington State is one of a dozen states registering more flu cases. Locally, Kitsap County had 51 positive flu cases reported in just the first week of December, 2019, which is 50 more than last year at the same time. Last year the state had 241 people die from flu complications, with 11 residing in Kitsap County. The majority of those flu-related deaths were elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

    Burnham attests that although symptoms of the flu can fluctuate from person to person, there are tell-tale sign.

    “Each individual has a unique, one-of-a-kind immune system. Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. According to the CDC, those with the flu can have some or all of the following flu symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea,” Burnham said.

    For those who think they might have the flu, Burnham added, “Infection with influenza viruses can be life-threatening. The CDC reports that people typically recover in two weeks or less. However, some people can develop other problems as a result of having the flu, such as pneumonia, which is an extremely dangerous infection of the lungs. Therefore, anyone who thinks that they have the flu should consult their healthcare provider immediately. After receiving healthcare, it is important that someone with a confirmed flu infection stay at home and rest according to their providers’ orders, as to not expose others to the illness.”

    For those already inoculated with the annual immunization, they do not need to receive it again – only children who have never received a flu vaccine require a two-shot series the first year they get vaccinated.

    “According to the CDC, children under the age of five, and especially those under the age of two, are considered a high risk group for contracting the flu. As such, any parent with a child with a suspected flu infection should consult their child’s pediatrician immediately. Again, infection with influenza viruses is extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening. With proper healthcare, children with the flu have a much safer recovery than those who do not receive medical attention. A child with a confirmed flu infection should not attend school, and should stay home and rest for a period of time according to their healthcare providers’ orders,” stressed Burnham.

    NHB echoes the CDC recommendation that everyone - even those as young as six months - should get the influenza vaccine each year. It is especially important for pregnant women and people with chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, and those that have weakened immune systems.

    Immunization remains the primary method of reducing seasonal influenza illness and its complications. The seasonal influenza vaccine not only helps protect vaccinated individuals, but also helps protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of the disease.

    Burnham clarified that just by getting vaccinated, a person gets protection and resistance against the flu.

    “Flu immunity is achieved when someone develops antibodies as a result of being exposed to influenza vaccine. Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system, which fight specific bacteria, viruses and antigens (bad toxins or foreign substances). The vaccine triggers the body to produce antibodies that are uniquely equipped to fight off the specific strains of flu contained in the vaccine. It takes the body about two weeks post-vaccination to develop these antibodies. If a vaccinated person is exposed to any of the flu virus strains that were present in the vaccine, their antibodies will kill the viruses, and they will not get sick with the flu,” explained Burnham.

    “A person not getting a flu shot has an efficacy of zero percent, so even if the vaccine is 10 percent effective, it is more than not having it at all,” commented Cmdr. Rob Uniszkiewicz, Branch Health Clinic Puget Sound Naval Shipyard officer in charge.

    There are also multiple steps that can be done daily to mitigate the potential spread of the flu. One of the most effective is hand washing.
    One of the challenging aspects of flu is that someone who becomes infected can infect others one day before they have symptoms and up to five days after becoming sick. Influenza usually causes mild to severe illness, and in extreme, uncommon, cases can lead to death.

    Symptoms of influenza include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, chills, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea also can occur but are more common in children than adults. Traditionally, seasonal flu impacts the elderly and the young.

    What can people do to protect themselves against the flu virus?
    NHB follows CDC recommendations to:
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, when you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from also getting sick.
    • If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
    • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his/her eyes, nose or mouth.

    Influenza vaccinations are available for those in need, Monday through Friday:
    NHB’s Immunization Clinic, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with last walk-in appointment at 3:30 p.m.
    Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Bangor, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    BHC Everett, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    BHC Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.



    Date Taken: 01.18.2020
    Date Posted: 01.18.2020 10:55
    Story ID: 359677
    Location: BREMERTON , WA, US 

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