In fighting the flu, the nose knows


University of Florida College of Nursing student Alyssa Larsen administers FluMist, a nasal spray flu immunization, to Glen Springs Elementary School fifth-grader Shane Shorter, 10, on Oct. 3.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.

It was Zachary Ferkovich's turn to get the little tube stuck up his nose.

He slowly sat in a chair across from Alyssa Larsen, a University of Florida nursing senior who held the nasal-spray flu vaccine ready to go.

As she leaned in to give him the spray, the 5-year-old put his hands on his face and jerked away.

“I just don't want it,” he mumbled.

“It kind of feels like when you jump into the pool and you get a little water up your nose,” said Larsen, 23.

The kindergartner wouldn't have it. His teacher gave him a pep talk, and his friend Noah came to stand by his side.

Ten minutes later, Zachary relented, one nostril at a time, after Larsen showed him the consent form to remind him that mom knows best.

“Your mom wants you to get it so you don't get sick,” she said.

Nearly 300 students got a spray of FluMist on Wednesday at Glen Springs Elementary as part of the Alachua County school district's immunization program.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the vaccine contains a live, weakened flu virus.

Elementary schools will continue to administer the vaccine throughout October. Consent forms for middle and high school students are due on Oct. 18, and they will get the spray in November.

Janet Zorn, school nurse at Glen Springs who organized the immunizations along with dental and vision checkups, said she had the most students receive the vaccine last week in the three years they'd offered it.

She's known for getting 100 percent of the consent forms returned year after year.

“I'm persistent,” Zorn said, grinning.

A team of UF nursing seniors came to administer the vaccines, which is simply a quick spray up both nostrils.

Cody Gerhart, 21, said seeing the kids made for a fun morning, and they aren't only helping the students stay healthy.

“The good thing about this is it protects the parents,” he said. “(The kids) are disease-spreaders.”

Fifth-grader Jake Davis, 10, described getting the spray as a familiar feeling.

“I felt like I had a lot of snot in my nose.”

Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or joey.flechas@gvillesun.com.

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