YOUR HEALTH: Could one shot stop the flu for good?

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ORLANDO, Florida – The flu virus spreads quickly.

At best, you're achy for several days.   At its worst, the flu can kill.

Every year, a vaccine offers protection, but fewer than half of all adults get one.

Scientist Kai McKinstry wants to make immunization more effective for people.

"It should protect us season, after season, irrespective of what kinds of viruses happen to be floating around," said McKinstry, a part of the team at the University of Central Florida's Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences.

INFLUENZA:  Influenza, better known as the flu, is a contagious illness of the respiratory system that infects the nose, throat and lungs.   The best way to prevent the flu is to receive the vaccine or flu shot each year.   The reason this is done yearly is because the virus is ever-changing; it can come in different forms.

McKinstry is examining how the immune system responds.    Once a person gets sick from a pathogen, the body "remembers" it and is less likely to get sick from it again.

"We want to boost that memory," she explained.  "We want to turn it on, and we also want to make it as effective as possible."

McKinstry and fellow immunologists are studying a group of white blood cells called T-cells.   In animals, T-cells have been shown to provide strong protection against the flu.

"The great thing about T-cell immunity is it can recognize conserved parts of these viruses across many different strains," said McKinstry.

So even though the flu changes each year, one immunization that activates T-cells, could protect against all strains.

NEW STUDY:  The hope is ten years from now physicians would be able to provide a vaccine to the masses that can be given once for a lifetime, instead of having to administer seasonal flu shots each and every year.

Professor McKinstry says it`s also important to consider the site of infection and since the lung is the infection site for flu, a nasal spray would be a good way to provide immunity.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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