Florida Guardsmen protect themselves against the flu

Written by  //  September 17, 2011  //  Feature Stories, News

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2011) – As the 2011 influenza season begins, Florida Guardsmen are protecting themselves from the disease by getting their flu shots. October marks the beginning of the flu season.

Col. John Grote, the Army National Guard Chief Surgeon, receives his influenza vaccine while visiting Soldiers from the Florida National Guard in St. Augustine, Fla., Sept. 17, 2011. Soldiers from the Florida National Guard began receiving flu shots to mark the beginning of the 2011 flu season. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens

“Nearly 30,000 people die from flu each year,” said Col. John Grote, the Army National Guard Chief Surgeon. “A lot of people don’t realize that. It’s a huge killer in our country. So our ability to protect the Soldiers of the Guard and to make sure we’re available to protect the citizens of the United States is probably the most important thing.”

Working in close proximity to each other puts military members at a higher risk of contracting the flu. This is why all Guardsmen are required to receive the annual vaccine.

“Military units, because of the way that we do work close together, we’re at risk,” said Grote. “We’re all out in the community and being exposed every day. In fact, being put in austere conditions more frequently than most people, puts us at a greater risk of contracting influenza.”

A Florida Guardsman receives his flu shot during drill weekend in St. Augustine, Fla., Sept. 17, 2011. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens

Symptoms of influenza can include fever, coughing sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches or body aches, chills and fatigue. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that anyone with the flu stay home, avoid close contact with others, clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based cleanser regularly, cover coughs and sneezes, drink fluids and get plenty of rest.

“All the standard type of measures we do to prevent the spread of any type of illness is the same thing with the flu,” said Grote.

Grote encourages all Guardsmen to get their families immunized as well as getting themselves immunized.

“It’s important to get the flu shot because this is a preventable disease,” said Col. Benjamin W. Goh, the Florida National Guard State Surgeon. “The earlier you get it, the more time it will have to get into your system.”

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