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Q: Because the FluMist nasal spray you wrote about contains a live virus, people who use this form of flu vaccination should be aware they will be contagious for quite some time. In fact, hospital workers who use FluMist have been asked not to come to work for up to three weeks.
A: Your concern is well taken.
FluMist uses a live but weakened virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of virus transmission by FluMist users to others is relatively low. Because the virus is weakened, the CDC says, it's unlikely that such transmission would cause flu symptoms.
Though this risk might be small, it seems prudent that FluMist users - for a period of time after getting the spray - stay away from people less able to fend off infection. Vulnerable persons include the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
This is the reason for limiting the use of FluMist in the first place to healthy, younger people 5 to 49 years old.
The CDC recommends that this "stay away" period last for one week.
Because many hospitalized patients are in the vulnerable category, some hospitals are choosing to err on the side of greater caution by extending the "stay away" period up to three weeks for their employees who use FluMist.
FluMist is a new product, and we should know more after the current flu season.
Q: You wrote that some glucosamine-chondroitin supplements contain too much manganese and that this might cause adverse neurologic effects with prolonged use. My glucosamine supplement contains magnesium stearate listed under "other ingredients" but does not say how much. Is that the same as manganese?
A: Manganese and magnesium are two different minerals. Magnesium stearate is an additive used as a lubricant in the manufacturing. It's classified as an inactive ingredient.
Q: You said: "Bottom line: Getting proper amounts of calcium and vitamin D will enhance your Fosamax therapy (for osteoporosis), but don't take these supplements at the same time as Fosamax." I take Fosamax and thought maybe this meant that I should discontinue my calcium supplement. My doctor said you probably just meant that the calcium supplement should be taken apart from the time I take Fosamax. Could you clarify?
A: Your doctor has it right. People taking Fosamax (alendronate) know to take this drug on an empty stomach with a full glass of water, and I added that statement to reinforce the fact that Fosamax should be taken alone. It should be OK to take your calcium supplement a couple of hours after taking Fosamax.
(Richard Harkness is a consultant pharmacist who writes on health care topics. You can write him at 1224 King Henry Drive, Ocean Springs, MS 39564. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Volume of mail prohibits individual replies; selected letters will be answered in his column.)
(c) 2003, The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.