Expert Advice on Beating the Flu Without Vaccine

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Because of the shortage of flu vaccine this year, those who don't get a shot will have to take better care of themselves. Here's some advice from an expert who prevents diseases for a living.

Only two states, Delaware and New York, are reporting widespread flu activity right now. Illinois and Indiana are reporting sporadic activity, while Kentucky is reporting none. Flu cases normally peak in late December, so it's too early for an epidemic, but not too early to start thinking about flu prevention.

Tucked away in the basement of St. Mary's Medical Center, Mellodee Montgomery spends her days trying to keep the flu at bay. An outbreak at the hospital could have devastating consequences.

Something she thinks will help her win the battle this year is a new product from Kleenex: anti-viral tissues. The active ingredients are citric acid, a flavoring agent in soft drinks and sodium Lauryl sulfate, which is found in many shampoos and detergents. Together, they won't kill any cold or flu viruses in your nose, but they will kill the germs left behind in a Kleenex within 15 minutes.

Montgomery says, "As long as there is moisture there the viruses can stay alive, and sometimes if the moisture stays in a Kleenex for up to a week, the organisms can be there. So if someone comes along and picks up the tissue then they can get in on their hands."

If you're stuck without a tissue, the November issue of Health Magazine recommends using your sleeve, your shirt, tie or scarf. Just not your hands. You probably already know that you should keep your fingers away from your mouth and your nose, but you should also keep them away from your eyes. Because your tear ducts drain directly into your nose, rubbing your eyes can cause organisms to get into your respiratory tract, another way you can get the flu.

Wash your hands frequently and remember, it's the scrubbing and drying more than anything that kills the germs. Montgomery says, "If you can't wash your hands with soap and water, use the hand sanitizers which are alcohol based and will kill the viruses and other germs also." She says the sanitizers shouldn't replace soap and water, but are certainly the next best thing.

The flu shot is still available in limited quantities. Welborn Clinic just supplied the Vanderburgh County Health Department with another 500 doses. They'll be given this Wednesday at the health department's new office at Sixth and Mulberry in downtown Evansville. You have to be over 65, have a chronic illness or meet one of the other Centers for Disease Control guidelines that put you at high risk for flu complications in order to be eligible for the vaccine.