2011 Issues   /   November 2011

Military Battles Flu Every Year to Ensure Troop Readiness

By US Medicine

WASHINGTON — Every year, the military has to do battle with an especially cunning and adaptable foe: seasonal influenza.

During the 2010-2011 flu season, more than 600 cases of the flu were reported among troops on active duty (80.1% had been vaccinated prior to illness),  with an additional 2,674 cases reported among other Military Health Service (MHS) beneficiaries, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC) Surveillance Report for the 2010-2011 Influenza season. Actual numbers of influenza cases are thought to be much higher because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many people with flu don’t seek medical care and only a small number of those who seek are actually tested.

flu photo.jpg

“I can honestly say that I don’t think there is another infectious disease that impacts military readiness at this point in time more than influenza of known infectious diseases,” Navy Capt. Kevin Russell, MD, director of the AFHSC, told U.S. Medicine.

This year, DoD will have a new tool in its arsenal when it comes to dealing with the flu on the battlefield. The FDA recently cleared two flu kits for the deployed setting. One will be used to test for Influenza A and Influenza B, and the second will allow for the detection and differentiation of influenza subtypes A/H1, A/H3 and 2009 A/H1.

The kits will be used on a 40-pound device known as the Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System (JBAIDS). Without these kits, many medical facilities in deployed settings are unable to rapidly diagnose influenza.

Russell said using the tests also could provide early warning in the event of a new flu virus. Detecting new viruses as early as possible can help with preventing the spread of the virus as well as allowing for the timely development of a vaccine, he said.

“I think the challenge will be utilization of this. We may all have tools in our tool chest, but if you don’t take the time to pull them out, they are not going to help anyone,” he said. “That will be the challenge moving into the season.”

Flu Immunization

Flu prevention is key in the military, because illness can wreak havoc on readiness. All active duty and reserve personnel are required to receive the seasonal vaccination every year, explained Col. Scott Stanek, preventive medicine physician in DoD’s Force Health Protection and Readiness office.

“The goal this year is to exceed 90% immunization of military personnel by the 1st of December,” he said. “The other eligible beneficiaries, the family members, the retirees, they are certainly encouraged to receive immunization as soon as possible.”


Related Articles

GAO: ‘Gaps’ in MHS Physician Specialties Could Affect Wartime Readiness

In honor of National Caregivers Month this November, the VA Palo Alto, CA, Health Care System, held events for friends and family who provide care to ill, injured or disabled veterans. VA photo WASHINGTON —... View Article

Engineer Seeks to Make VAMCs More Energy Efficient Without Interrupting Their Mission

WASHINGTON—Anyone who’s ever worked in a hospital knows how much energy a facility of that size consumes. From the electricity to keep the lights on and the technology running to the water used to keep everything sterile, medical facilities can be far from energy efficient.


U.S. Medicine Recommends


More From department of defense dod

Department of Defense (DoD)

GAO: ‘Gaps’ in MHS Physician Specialties Could Affect Wartime Readiness

Vascular Events Lead to Stroke About a Fourth of the Time. INDIANAPOLIS — While many healthcare systems measure the quality of their stroke care, looking at performance early in the vascular disease process can help... View Article

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VA Vows to Meet Deadline for Revamp of Veteran Claims Appeal Process

Vascular Events Lead to Stroke About a Fourth of the Time. INDIANAPOLIS — While many healthcare systems measure the quality of their stroke care, looking at performance early in the vascular disease process can help... View Article

Department of Defense (DoD)

DoD, VA Still Struggle with Diagnosing, Treating Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

Diagnosing and treating mild traumatic brain injury continues to pose challenges for clinicians, TBI experts told lawmakers.

Department of Defense (DoD)

VA Promises to Resolve Late Payment Issues with Community Healthcare Providers

Vascular Events Lead to Stroke About a Fourth of the Time. INDIANAPOLIS — While many healthcare systems measure the quality of their stroke care, looking at performance early in the vascular disease process can help... View Article

Department of Defense (DoD)

Change in VA/DoD Guidelines for Low Back Pain Surprising Even for Authors

If VA clinicians are surprised by the significant changes in the updated recommendations recently issued by the VA and DoD for the diagnosis and management of low back pain, they are not alone. The evidence review even shocked many members of the work group that wrote the new clinical practice guidelines.

Facebook Comment

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up