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Health Team

Doctors urge 'cocooning' for those who can't get flu shot

Posted October 20, 2010 6:09 p.m. EDT
Updated October 21, 2010 12:09 p.m. EDT

— Adela Broughton, of Durham, has been at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill for more than four weeks.

The 4-year-old suffers from a severely inflamed and damaged colon that prevents her from absorbing nutrients.

Her family is concerned that her weakened state makes her vulnerable to the flu.

Adela also happens to be allergic to eggs, so she can’t get the standard flu shot. The flu vaccine is cultured in chicken eggs.

That’s why UNC Hospitals is targeting parents and caregivers of children like Adela to get the vaccine themselves. The strategy is called developing a “cocoon of flu protection.”

“Since the flu is passed from person to person, if we can protect the people around Adela from getting the flu, then we can also protect the flu from ever getting to Adela,” said UNC pediatrician Dr. Michael Steiner.

So Adela’s parents and grandmother have received the vaccine.

“This was the next best thing to her getting a flu shot,” Adela’s father, Steven Brougthon, said.

Dr. Steiner says it’s a concept that should be applied to all families with young children.

“The flu vaccine is not 100 percent, so if you can have more people immunized in the household, that actually helps protect the whole household,” Steiner said.

An estimated 200,000 people in the United Sates are expected to get the flu this flu season.