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DoD to Launch Anti-flu Health Campaign

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2004 – The Defense Department is launching a vigorous public health campaign aimed at preventing the flu in those who won't qualify to get their shot this season.

"To borrow a phrase from Franklin Roosevelt from many years ago, and I think it applies: The greatest thing we have to fear 'is fear itself,'" said Dr. William Winkenwerder, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs said in an interview Oct. 21. "This is a very manageable problem, a very manageable situation. Speaking for the military, I think we'll be able to manage this situation without any difficulty."

In fact, Winkenwerder said, "there's some chance we could have a low influenza season" with all the effort to target the vaccine for higher-risk individuals "and being very forward leaning, and pushing out our messages for all others on how to prevent the spread of infection."

Winkenwerder said the messages are very simple but important. He mentioned the oft-repeated preventive practices of washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze. If you get sick, he noted, "then stay away from other people. In fact, if you really feel bad, don't come into work. Don't spread an illness."

Winkenwerder said the Tricare Web site will have these tips and more. DoD will also get the message out via posters, newspapers, radio and television.

With the shortage of flu vaccine, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are asking many healthy Americans to forgo getting a flu shot this year. In DoD this means servicemembers who are not deploying and healthy family members not in the high-risk groups will not get the shot.

CDC officials said there are no current outbreaks of the flu, "but we really haven't gotten into the season yet." Officials also believe this will be a fairly typical flu season. They said with the increased attention surrounding the vaccine shortage they hope that people will pay more attention to preventive measures.

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Dr. William Winkenwerder

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