HEIDELBERG, Germany — Flu vaccine is now available — in limited quantities — for high-risk patients in Europe, according to Army officials.

“There is still a limited supply, but we received a new shipment earlier this week and can now begin vaccinating high-risk patients in some areas,” said Cynthia Vaughan, a spokeswoman for the Europe Regional Medical Command.

Those vaccinations are being distributed to local hospitals and clinics, she said, “and more shipments are expected in the next few weeks.”

Those interested should check their local clinics for availability.

The United States’ flu vaccine supply was cut in half last month when officials found that nearly 50 million doses were contaminated.

The Army has made deployed troops the highest priority for the military’s ration of the remaining vaccines. Those preparing to deploy are next on the list, followed now by those who are at high risk of contracting the flu. High-risk categories include:

Children 6-23 monthsAdults 65 years and olderPregnant womenAnyone with underlying chronic medical conditions, including pulmonary illnesses, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or asthma; cardiovascular illnesses, such as congestive heart failure; chronic metabolic diseases, including diabetes mellitus; renal dysfunction; sickle cell disease; or immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by human immunodeficiency virus [HIV])Health care workers involved in direct patient care.Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months.In lieu of vaccinations, officials are urging everyone else to adopt certain practices to help remain healthy.

“While getting vaccinated is the best prevention against influenza, there are several things people can do to make themselves less susceptible to influenza infection and to prevent spreading of the disease since most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact,” Col. Kent Bradley, preventive medicine expert for forces in Europe, said in a prepared Army statement.

Bradley suggests troops and family members wash their hands regularly, cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, exercise, get plenty of sleep and to stay home if they do get sick.

So far, this year’s flu season has been off to slow start among troops and family members in Europe, Vaughan said. With the first snows dusting southern and central Germany this week, however, that season is just starting.

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