How to Beat the Flu This Season Without a Shot

Reporter: Shannon Samson

The Evansville Visiting Nurse Association is seeing long lines at its flu shot clinics which are reserved for the elderly, chronically ill and others who meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control high risk guidelines.

But what about everyone else? Flu season in the U.S. typically peaks in late December through early March. That wasn't the case last year, when flu cases peaked early and took the lives of several children out west. Even though those numbers eventually leveled off and were only slightly above what's considered normal, it was enough to create quite a bit of concern. Concern that carried over to this year.

The VNA still has flu shots available for high risk patients. Others have options, that range from expensive to simple.

Like many physicians, Dr. Melinda Jackson doesn't have a single flu shot to give to the high risk patients visiting her Newburgh office. But she did get FluMist, a nasal spray that's recommended for ages 5 to 49. Unlike the flu shot, FluMist is a weakened form of the live virus. Dr. Jackson says FluMist is not for everyone. "Theoretically, you could shed that, so it couldn't be used when you're exposed to it in an immuno-compromised state, someone receiving chemotherapy, health care workers should not get that."

Another problem is there's only a limited amount of FluMist available in this area. Why? Last year Medimmune, Inc. made five million doses and ended up throwing away four and half million because of poor sales. Pediatrician Dr. Jon Robin Voyles says, "There's not enough FluMist to compensate for the lack of flu shots." Dr. Voyles has a few doses of FluMist and very few doses of the regular vaccine he's reserving for high risk kids. "If you have a normal healthy child who is not able to get their flu shot because they're not in a high risk group, as a parent, you should not be overly concerned. If they do get the flu, not every kid gets the flu, but if they do get the flu virus, for most kids it's just your common, everyday cold."

FluMist costs anywhere from $40 - $60 a dose and kids between the ages of five and nine require two doses. What's cheaper and readily available is good hygiene, the way most of us will have to brave flu season. Dr. Jackson offers common sense advice. "Frequent hand washing. Sometimes exercising, that will get your stamina up and endorphins would be able to jump start your immune system so you can fight off things." Hand washing prevents the spread of germs. So does staying home from work when you're sick.

FluMist is also not recommended for people with asthma, allergies to eggs or women who are pregnant or nursing. Children on aspirin therapy also shouldn't take FluMist. The company says it's making another million doses of FluMist to add to the million already out there. As for how many will be available in this area remains to be seen. Doctors are only allowed to order 70 doses at a time.