Flu Update January 2015

Several tragic news stories in recent weeks have reported the deaths of otherwise healthy individuals, whom had received the flu vaccine, die from flu or “flu-like” illness and complications.  Here is information everyone should know.  

Yesterday the CDC released a report that disclosed important information regarding this season’s flu virus and the vaccine that has been aggressively promoted and marketed.  The report is a quick read, but I wanted to highlight a few things from it.  In past years vaccine effectiveness ranges from a dismal 10% to a high of 60% when the vaccine matches that season’s particular flu strain. 

This year’s vaccine so far has only 26% effectiveness, and that is in our generally most healthy age demographic of people 6 months to 17 years old.  The current vaccine’s effectiveness is even less for people ages 18 – 49 years at a mere 12%, and only 14% effective for people 50 years and older.  These numbers are so poor because the current flu strain does not totally match with what the flu vaccine was manufactured for.

The CDC and many other health authorities still claim that people should get the vaccine anyway.  The report even combines this recommendation with an element of fear, “…vaccination can still prevent some infections and can reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and death.”  Every flu season claims lives, however the danger is increased when health professionals and their patients are given a false sense of security in regards to vaccination.  We are lead to believe that vaccination is the best and only thing we can do to avoid flu, and if a person has received the vaccine then they are protected.  Clearly not so, especially this widespread flu season.

So here are some things you can do to support your immune system in its fight against the flu virus.

  • Hygiene.  Washing hands with soap and water is so simple yet very effective in decreasing the chance of viral spread.  Additionally keeping hands and fingers away from and out of your eyes, mouth, and nose.  Extra diligence may be needed with children.
  • Avoid refined sugar.  Sugar is the root of several health problems, but in this case it is important to know that excessive sugar suppresses the immune system limiting its ability to fight off viruses.
  • Take extra vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D and unsweetened zinc lozenges.  These are immune supportive and have some antiviral action.  Do not take extra vitamin A if you are, or think you might be pregnant.  Consult your naturopathic doctor.
  • Herbal support for the immune system can be found in Astragalus, Echinacea, and Hydrastis just to name a few.
  • Getting adequate sleep, sunlight and reducing stress can greatly enhance one’s ability to fight infection.  Exhaustion and chronic stress weaken the immune system.  Good stress reducing activities include exercise, taking a walk in fresh air, meditation, enjoyable hobbies, taking time off and “unplugging” when needed.

This list is not by any means complete, but offers good starting points to reduce exposure chances and help support the immune system in its ability to fight the flu virus.  Do not, however, delay seeking proper, trusted medical attention if you or a loved one start to develop flu like symptoms.  An essential part of reducing duration and severity of illness is getting help and treatments quickly. 

Dr Tom Jemison, ND