USAREUR credits readiness efforts for success in avoiding flu
A flu outbreak similar to the one that hit the United States in December may have been avoided in Europe because of the U.S. Army Europe’s flu shot campaign.
USAREUR led the Army in percentage of troops receiving flu immunizations for the second straight year. As of Monday, USAREUR had immunized 94 percent of its soldiers against the illness this season, surpassing last year’s 93 percent and setting a record for all major Army commands.
According to USAREUR medical officials, several USAREUR units have 97 percent or more of their soldiers immunized.
This flu season, which typically runs from October to April, just 10 active-duty soldiers in USAREUR have been diagnosed with influenza.
The top two immunized divisions are the 1st Armored Division at 100 percent and the 1st Infantry Division, which now stands at 99 percent.
“This is the first time in Army history that not one, but two divisions have achieved this accomplishment,” said Col. Allen Kraft, director, force health protection, for USAREUR and the Europe Regional Medical Command.
Immunization rates continue to be tracked by Medical Protection System, or MEDPROS, a Web-based program that records medical readiness data, such as flu shots as well as the medical steps troops must undergo as part of reintegration.
Commanders or individual soldiers can view the data in MEDPROS right from their desktops. It is this awareness that Kraft attributes to the success of this year’s flu campaign.
“All the leadership in USAREUR were really committed to this effort,” Kraft said.
In addition to the 10 soldiers diagnosed with the flu, there were 34 cases involving young children in the European military communities. In the Kaiserslautern area, for example, 10 children had fallen ill with the virus by the middle of December, two weeks earlier than the normal peak.
“From what we can tell, most of the cases occurred in November and December, with just a few in January,” said Col. Loren Erickson, commander of U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine Europe. “This year, it looks like the peak of occurrence was more so in December.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has been notified of 129 flu-related deaths in people younger than age 18, including 78 in children younger than 5, in the United States as of last week.
Though the worst appears to be over, almost three months remain in the flu season — plenty of time to still get sick, Erickson said. The vaccine is still available for servicemembers, Department of Defense civilians, retirees, dependents and host nation employees.