Alternative to Flu Shot

1 decade 4 weeks 2 days ago November 05, 2006 Nov 5, 2006 Sunday, November 05 2006 Sunday, November 05, 2006 10:05:11 PM CST in News

Flu shots are as annual a tradition as pumpkin carving and Thanksgiving to some of us. But there are also so many who are absolutely against the idea. David Schneider takes a look at some of the myths involved with the shots as well as the effectiveness of some new alternatives.

Hundreds of people waited up to an hour at a flu shot clinic Saturday.

"I get a flu shot every year. I have been doing about 10-12 years."

One lady learned the hard way how important flu vaccines are.

"There was a couple of years back when there weren't enough shots available and so I didn't get it, and I got the flu. And very very bad. It was awful," said Brenda Overkamp of Columbia.

Brenda doesn't mind needles, but the idea of getting a shot is enough to keep some people away. But they have an alternative, the flu "mist," which is basically a nasal spray. A doctor at University Hospital says the mist works by putting a live, temperature-sensitive flu virus in the nasal passages; the virus can survive there but not in the lungs where it would have to be to make someone sick.

"And so by setting a little, sub-clinical infection like that, it actually induces immunity in a way that's much more natural, and actually appears to be much more effective than the flu shot," explained Michael Cooperstock, M.D. of University Hospital.

Doctor Cooperstock calls the mist the vaccine of the future, since it's stronger and lasts longer. And since doctors can only predict which flu strain will be the right one for flu season, the mist has another important advantage over the shot.

"If the prediction wasn't quite right and the strains we get are different somewhat from the original one that was put in the vaccine, this vaccine is more likely to be considerably more effective at preventing influenza," he added.

The Columbia-Boone County Health Department, which just tried a drive-through flu shot clinic, also offers the mist to eligible people who come in for it.

"People have actually had a really good experience with it. We haven't heard anybody say that they've. You know the only thing is it gives you, it kind of drips down your throat a little, like any nose spray does, and has a little bit of a bad taste. But it's very short lived, and we haven't had anybody have any adverse reactions to it," said Heather Baer of the health department.

The flu can make people sick enough to go to the emergency room. But a doctor who works the ER at University Hospital says there's no quick cure.

"In general the treatment for this is supportive care. We usually give them a little fluids sometimes, sometimes just Motrin and Tylenol and reassurance that they should get better," explained Adam Beckett, M.D. of the Emergency Room.

But Brenda Overkamp knows just how miserable waiting to get better can be.

"Fever, chills, can't get off the bed, achy, awful."

And in case your worried about getting the flu from the vaccine itself, it cannot give you the flu since the virus is dead or weakened.

The mist is more expensive than the shot, so be sure to ask how much it cost before going to get it. And don't forget one of the best ways to prevent getting and spreading the flu and other illnesses, washing your hands.

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