Most of the time, people will do anything in their power to avoid the flu, but when money is involved, who cares about a little coughing and sneezing? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is offering $3,000 to patients who are willing to voluntarily contract the influenza virus, in hopes of creating a safer and more effective flu vaccine, The Associated Press reported.
Although Dr. Matthew Memoli, from the NIH, said current vaccines are doing their job, he also admitted there is room for improvement. The flu vaccine — which produces antibodies in the body that are tasked with warding off infection — is administered for protection against three strains of the flu virus including influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2), and influenza B. Both the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that anyone over the age of 6 months, especially people over 65, receive the flu vaccine.
Unfortunately for people over the age of 65, people who are the most susceptible to the virus, current vaccines seem to be slightly ineffective. Health care professionals credit seniors’ resistance to the virus on their weakened immune system. The research team hopes that by studying the virus’ pathology from the minute a younger adult is infected to the minute they are not considered contagious will help shed light on how our bodies fight off the infection.
Participants must be of otherwise suitable health and must be under the age of 50. To ensure the safety of each participant, Memoli and his colleagues will only inject each patient with a mild strain of the virus that will produce only minor symptoms. An artificial copy of the H1N1 flu strain will be injected via a syringe into the patient’s right nostril. For the next nine days, doctors at NIH hospitals monitor the patient’s health while they are quarantined. Patients are released when nasal tests indicate they are no longer contagious.
According to the CDC’s FlueView, influenza activity in the United States between Jan. 12-18 (week 3 of the flu season) remained high. Out of 12,108 influenza reports to the CDC, the World Health Organization and National Respiratory, and Enteric Virus Surveillance System, 2,793 tested positive for influenza. Seventeen laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people were reported in week 3 of the season, in addition to eight influenza-related pediatric deaths.