Flu Season Right Around the Corner Published Sept. 15, 2010 By Captain Heath S. Wookman 28th Medical Operations Squadron ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- The kids are back in school, football is on television and all those summer projects Airmen didn't get to will be put off until next year. Fall is here which means flu season is right around the corner. Although flu season does not officially begin until October, it's not too early to start thinking of flu prevention. Many simple steps can help prevent catching and spreading the flu including proper hand washing with soap and warm water before meals, after coughing or sneezing and after attending public gatherings. Covering coughs with a sleeve or tissue, keeping sick kids home and staying home when ill are other important ways to prevent spreading the flu to others. However, the most important step in staying healthy and limiting the spread of the flu is getting an annual flu shot. When given at least two weeks before exposure, the seasonal flu vaccine which contains three different strains of the flu virus is up to 94 percent effective in preventing the flu. This year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all persons older than six months get the flu vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine is required for all Active Duty and Reserve Component Personnel. Vaccination of active duty personnel will begin as soon as supplies are received. Dependents can receive the vaccine once mission critical and high risk groups have been vaccinated, usually around the first week of October. High risk groups are of special concern due to their risk of being hospitalized with flu related complications. These include children six months to 18 years old, persons at risk for medical complications such as those with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women and those who live with or care for them. Please visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov for the full list of recommendations and target groups or contact a medical provider at the 28th Medical Group Immunizations clinic at (605) 385-3365 and 28th Medical Group Public Health office at (605) 385-3698 with any questions.