Nov. 6, 2019 -- Would you willingly get the flu for a few thousand bucks?

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is looking for volunteers to be infected with the virus on purpose, in an effort to come up with better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat the flu. Those who are brave enough to participate will receive up to $3,300 in return.

According to a news release from the agency, volunteers will get the flu via a nasal spray and then stay at an in-patient facility for at least a week. During that time, researchers will study how the flu affects their bodies, how bad their symptoms are, and how long symptoms stick around.

At least five people have already received the nasal spray. Over the next few months, 75 more healthy people -- ages 18 to 50 -- are expected to do the same across four clinics at Duke University in North Carolina, Saint Louis University in Missouri, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio, and the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

This isn’t the first time a study like this has been done. Hundreds of people have already taken part in at least four flu trials at the NIH Clinical Center in Maryland, and no one had any severe complications or spread the virus outside the clinic.

Researchers hope the studies will lead to better vaccines. “These trials provide a powerful tool to study many aspects of influenza disease progression and also can help to efficiently assess new treatments and vaccine candidates,” NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, says in a news release.

The flu is a contagious -- and sometimes deadly -- virus that can cause mild to severe symptoms, including a fever, chills, body aches, headaches, a sore throat, and fatigue. Last year’s flu season landed hundreds of thousands of people in the hospital, according to the CDC. And as many as 61,200 people may have died because of it.

Experts say that getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself from getting the virus. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated except in rare cases, such as having an allergy to eggs or an ingredient in the vaccine.

Show Sources

News release, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

CDC: “Flu Symptoms & Diagnosis,” “Update: Influenza Activity -- United States and Worldwide, May 19-September 28, 2019, and Composition of the 2020 Southern Hemisphere Influenza Vaccine,” “2018-2019 U.S. Flu Season: Preliminary Burden Estimates.”


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