Harris County Hospital District Encourages Use of Nasal Spray to Fight H1N1 Flu

HOUSTON (Nov. 17, 2009) – While the thought of using a nasal spray vaccine containing a live, but weakened, virus to fight the H1N1 flu may seem odd, the Harris County Hospital District encourages people to consider this safe and effective option to fight the flu. 

People who dismiss the nasal spray in favor of an injectable vaccine could be needlessly putting their health at risk. Federal and state suppliers are making nasal spray and injectable forms of the vaccine available.  

“The nasal spray is not dangerous at all,” said Charles Ericsson, MD, chair, Infection Control Committee, Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, part of the Harris County Hospital District. “It may be associated with a few minor symptoms like a runny nose, but it will still protect you against the H1N1 virus.” 

Ericsson, also professor and clinical director, Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases for The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, recommends people worry less about which form to get and more about getting it when it’s available. It takes 10-14 days for the vaccine to become effective after being administered. 

Known as a live attenuated influenza vaccine, the nasal spray vaccine has been wrongly linked to causing flu in recipients. In fact, the virus in the nasal spray is so weak that it is nearly impossible to develop into full-blown flu in healthy individuals, Ericsson said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that widespread infections of H1N1 will continue this flu season. Because of this, medical experts recommend people get vaccinated against the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus for maximum protection.

According to the CDC, people who should not get nasal spray vaccines — seasonal or H1N1 — are:

  • People younger than 2 years of age;
  • Pregnant women;
  • People 50 years of age and older;
  • People with a medical condition that places them at higher risk for complications from influenza, including those with chronic heart or lung disease, such as asthma or reactive airways disease; people with medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes or kidney failure; or people with illnesses that weaken the immune system, or who take medications that can weaken the immune system;
  • Children younger than 5 years old with a history of recurrent wheezing;
  • Children or adolescents receiving aspirin therapy;
  • People who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder of the nervous system, within six weeks of getting a flu vaccine; and
  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs or who are allergic to any of the nasal spray vaccine components.

Some of the side effects of the nasal spray are:

  • In children - runny nose, headache, wheezing, vomiting, muscle aches and fever
  • In adults - runny nose, headache, sore throat and cough (fever is not a common in adults) 

People who should get injectable vaccines — seasonal or H1N1 — are:

  • Pregnant women;
  • People who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months of age;
  • Healthcare and emergency medical personnel;
  • Anyone from 6 months - 24 years of age;
  • Anyone from 25 - 64 years of age with certain chronic medical conditions or a weakened immune system;
  • Healthy 25 - 64 year olds; and
  • Adults 65 years and older.

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