An increase in reported influenza cases has hit several European countries over the past few weeks, and Army medical officials are encouraging people to get a flu vaccination.

"Until now, Germany and surrounding countries have reported a sporadic number of influenza cases," Lt. Col. Paul Kennedy, chief of Preventive Medicine at the Heidelberg Health Center, said in a news release. "With more cases being reported, it’s essential you and your family are protected against the virus, especially if you’re traveling."

The vaccine is not mandatory, except for those in uniform. So far this flu season, close to 90 percent of U.S. Army Europe soldiers have been vaccinated, said Steve Davis, Europe Regional Medical Command public affairs.

Soldier vaccinations are tracked by an automated system. Not so for everyone else, making it difficult to see which military community members run higher risks of catching and/or spreading influenza.

Risks of respiratory infections, including influenza, are on the rise in Portugal, Spain, Northern Ireland and England, according to the Army’s Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine in Europe (CHPPM-E).

And in the last week of 2008, 18 cases of Flu A were verified at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, according to CHPPM-E. Information from the Army’s 17 Europe-based clinics was unavailable.

Regular reports are posted to the CHPPM-E Web site under the epidemiology link.

"Overall, Europe-wide [reported flu cases] are low, but there is increased activity in some areas," Davis said.

"The majority of countries participating in European influenza surveillance continue to report low intensity of influenza activity with sporadic/regional cases at most," Davis said. However, there is slightly increased activity in some areas.

CHPPM-E’s Epidemiology Division follows the influenza surveillance status for ERMC and U.S. European Command, which includes air and naval forces, and also gleans information from the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme which reports activity in 30 countries and nearly 500 million people.

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