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What to do if sick with the flu

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- In order to reduce the impact of flu on the base and conserve resources,  Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen here are required to follow isolation procedures if they come down with the flu. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- In order to reduce the impact of flu on the base and conserve resources, Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen here are required to follow isolation procedures if they come down with the flu. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- It's that time of the year again. The first snow has already come and gone and many people are getting ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's also the busiest time of the year, especially for the medical treatment facility on base, because it's flu season.

In order to reduce the impact of flu on the base and conserve resources, Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen here are required to follow isolation procedures if they come down with the flu.

"This plan was implemented to limit operational impact due to influenza, limit the spread of influenza and to ensure access to medical appointments for those with potentially serious complications," said Capt. Tracy Brannock, 5th Medical Operations Squadron public health flight commander. "This protocol pertains to active duty members meeting the influenza-like illness criteria during normal duty hours."

Health officials say the flu and cold have similar symptoms, and it's important to know the difference to ensure proper care and a fast recovery time.

"Common flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting," said the captain. "The minimum criteria for the isolation plan include having a fever of 100 degrees or greater and either a cough or sore throat."

There are three steps to follow if Airmen meet the minimum criteria for quarters isolation.

"If active duty members report flu-like symptoms, supervisors or commanders have the authority to allow members to go home or remain home for up to 24 hours without being formally placed on quarters," said the captain.

"If flu symptoms persist beyond 24 hours, supervisors or commanders should instruct the member to call the medical treatment facility appointment line, or sooner if needed," she said. "A telephone consult will be initiated with a triage nurse."

The last step involves following up with the Airman, she added.

If a member's symptoms resolve prior to the end of 72 hours social isolation in quarters, the member may return to duty.

If they persist beyond 72 hours, the member should call the appointment line for possible extension of SIQ for an additional 72 hours.

If symptoms persist beyond seven days, the member should contact the medical clinic to be evaluated by a provider.

And if they change significantly or worsen at any time, the member should contact the MTF appointment line for re-triage.

It is important for Airmen to understand that these procedures may only be followed once per flu season, she said. If the member becomes ill with the flu again, he or she must be seen by a provider before being placed on quarters.

Airmen can manage their symptoms by taking an over the counter medicine such as Tylenol or Sudafed and by using facial tissues, hand sanitizer and a thermometer.

The captain noted that all patients, especially those at higher risk, should watch for emergency warning signs such as difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting or flu-like symptoms which improve but then return with fever and worsening cough.

Airmen who have any of the emergency warning signs should contact the medical clinic for an urgent medical evaluation.

Commanders and supervisors are ultimately responsible for their personnel, she said. They must ensure they closely monitor their progress and intervene when necessary.

The member's unit is also responsible for updating the military personnel data system to reflect the member being on quarters status during the term of their isolation.

This is the second year the flu isolation plan is being implemented.

The 5th Security Forces Squadron's first sergeant said they used the program frequently last year.

"The plan worked really well," said Master Sgt. Kevin Denny, 5th SFS first sergeant. "It was a lot more efficient than having Airmen call and wait to get an appointment. The program allowed them to return to work a lot faster."
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