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Flu shot versus nasal spray

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Buffalo: Flu shot versus nasal spray
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If you're getting vaccinated, you have a choice between the flu mist nasal spray or the shot. Katie Gibas tells us about the different options.

Flu season across the county came in particularly hard and fast.

"We started seeing influenza in October. So it is an early and pretty significant year," said Dr. Cynthia Morrow, Onondaga County Health Commissioner

Dr. K. Bruce Simmons, the Upstate Employee and Student Health Director, added, "I'm tremendously concerned at this point. It's hard to know exactly where the flu season will go."

With flu season typically lasting until March or April, health experts say it's not too late to get vaccinated. You have a choice between the flu mist nasal spray or the shot.

The flu shot is usually cheaper. It is a dead virus. And it's approved for everyone aged six months and older. Side effects usually include soreness or itching around the injection site, a mild fever and aches. The nasal spray is a live form of the virus that is sprayed in the nose.

"It stays in the nose for the most part and multiples in the nose and stimulates an immune response. It is live but it's attenuated, so it can't really cause systemic illness. It can't grow anywhere except in the nose," said Simmons.

Side effects include a runny nose, sneezing, headache, sore throat and cough. But they are usually mild and short lived. Health experts recommend the nasal spray for people ages two through 49.

"The studies are showing that the children mount a better response, a better immune response to the live virus nasal spray than they do to the shot," said Morrow. "Both are good, but for healthy children, it is slightly more effective to use the nasal spray versus the shot."

The nasal spray should not be given to anyone who is sick, has asthma, nervous system disorders or is pregnant. For those who are allergic to eggs, neither the shot nor nasal spray is an option. But there will be some relief in the next few years.

"There is a flu vaccine that's being developed outside of using egg embryos, so coming down the line there will be another form of flu vaccine," said Simmons.

And since the flu shot and mist aren't 100 percent effective against all strains of the flu, good hygiene practices, like hand washing, continue to be the best defense.

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