Swine Flu & How To Boost The Immune System -- Natural Health Newsletter
Okay, we're three months into the swine flu pandemic, and H1N1 is unfolding pretty much as I predicted back in April, back when the world seemed to be in panic mode. As I said then, "Although the risk of a pandemic is certainly greater than with avian flu, your personal danger is much less -- and there are things you can do to make your risk of dying virtually non-existent."
Swine Flu 1976 & Propaganda by Dianequiose-4
And that is exactly what we have seen. Swine flu has indeed attained pandemic status, but mortality rates are very low (as predicted) -- about the same as with regular seasonal flu. But as I indicated two weeks later in May, just because swine flu isn't killing a lot of people, it doesn't mean the danger is over. And also, as I predicted, governments around the world are lining up to spend vast amounts of money buying billions of dollars worth of drugs that are only marginally effective, have side effects, and are likely to be relatively useless by the time flu season rolls around.
The bottom line is that swine flu is still likely to kill several million people worldwide over the next nine months, and it's worthwhile taking another look at its evolution over the last 90 days and project what we can look forward to as we start to move into flu season over the next 90 days.
H1N1 by the numbers
So how many people have actually contracted swine flu since it was first discovered in April?
And the truth of the matter is, no one knows. In fact, on July 16th, the World Health Organization announced that they had given up trying to count how many people have the H1N1 swine flu virus, saying the best they can do is estimate the spread of this "unstoppable" virus.
The WHO went on to say that most H1N1 cases are mild, with many people recovering unaided. But they also acknowledged how fast it was spreading. The "official" numbers in the US, for example, say that there have been 302 deaths out of nearly 44,000 reported cases. But unofficially, the CDC estimates that probably over 1,000,000 people have been infected with swine flu, with the vast majority of cases mild and unreported. Nevertheless, that works out to about one in every ten cases requiring hospitalization.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Because H1N1 represents a brand new strain of flu, never before seen by living human beings, virtually no one under age 60 has any built-in immunity to it. Therefore, we can look for the number of infections to increase exponentially as we move into flu season. In fact, the World Health Organization predicts that the H1N1 swine-flu virus could infect up to two billion people over the next two years - about one out of every three people in the world. The UK alone, for example, is projecting more than 100,000 new cases of H1N1 a day by the end of the summer. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 40 percent of Americans could contract swine-flu over the next two years. Unless an effective swine-flu vaccine is developed and produced successfully, the American government's experts say up to several hundred thousand people could die nationwide.
So what does that mean? Well, according to the CDC, hundreds of thousands could die from swine flu in the US alone over the next two years! Quite simply, if the number of infections is high enough, a low mortality rate will still produce a large number of deaths. That said, I believe the number of deaths will actually be much less -- less than 100,000 in the US, for example. At the moment, H1N1 is not that virulent. And for those who need to go to the hospital, Tamiflu and Relenza take the viral load down enough to keep mortality rates low. And for those of you reading this newsletter who choose to stock up on natural antipathogens, mortality rates are likely to be almost non-existent. Now, to be sure 100,000 thousand deaths is a lot, but let's keep some perspective. Over 106,000 people die each year because of adverse reactions to properly administered pharmaceutical drugs in hospitals. That means that fewer people are likely to die from the swine flu than actually die from the pharmaceutical drugs they take to stay healthy. In fact, the vast majority of people who get the swine flu recover after a week or so of high fever, aches, and respiratory distress. It's not pleasant, but except in rare circumstances, not fatal.
But that's if all things remain the same.
Tamiflu and Relenza resistant strains
When swine flu victims are hospitalized, the primary treatments are Tamiflu and Relenza -- although these drugs are no longer as effective as when they first arrived on the scene. In fact, Tamiflu resistant flu strains have been around for awhile -- even making appearances in earlier strains of H1N1 more than a year ago. In regard to swine flu, Tamiflu resistant strains have appeared all over the world -- stunningly quick when you consider that swine flu has only been around for 90 days. (1, 2)
So far, resistance is limited. But with millions of doses of Tamiflu stockpiled in people's medicine cabinets ready to breed resistant strains, not to mention Tamiflu's demonstrated propensity for breeding resistant strains, the indicators are not favorable. By the time the swine flu goes full bore in the middle of flu season, there is a strong likelihood that Tamiflu will be mostly ineffective. In addition to meaning that billions of dollars in stockpiled drugs will be useless, it throws all the burden on Relenza. And so far, Relenza has held up better than Tamiflu in terms of resistance. It is also far less popular as a stockpiled drug, which should protect it from resistance caused by overuse and improper use. But Relenza is not immune to producing resistant flu strains.
In any case, it all might be moot. As researchers from Harvard University have pointed out, the widespread use of Tamiflu and Relenza risks creating resistant strains of the flu. The Harvard researchers say that the medications should be reserved for only the very ill or people with severe immune deficiencies. And yet personal and business stockpiling of Tamiflu have continued unabated since the first appearance of Avian flu in 2005, making the idea of "controlled use" a mockery. As for Relenza, even if no major resistant strains appear, it presents different problems for users. Primarily, Relenza is contraindicated in people with chronic lung problems -- the very people who are most at risk for complications if they get swine flu.
Tamiflu and Relenza, the bottom line
Tamiflu belongs to a class of drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors and can shorten the duration and lessen the severity of the type A and B strains of the flu, as well as avian flu. The active ingredient in Tamiflu is oseltamivir, which is synthesized from shikimic acid, a naturally occurring substance found in plants like Chinese star anise and ginkgo. Originally, Roche derived all of its shikimic acid from star anise, but has lately been using a strain of the E. Coli bacteria to produce greater yields of shikimic acid. This is not as bizarre as it might sound, as most vitamin B12 and Human Growth Hormone are now also created by using E. Coli in a fermentation process.
Specifically, Tamiflu targets a protein called neuraminidase that lives on the surface of flu virus cells. This protein helps the flu virus break through the cell walls of cells it's trying to invade so it can move into those cells and replicate itself. Tamiflu inhibits the neuraminidase protein, so that the virus can't leave its original cell to infect other cells. If it can't migrate, eventually the virus dies.
It is important to note that Tamiflu can't prevent the flu, or even stop it entirely. It merely lowers the viral load (something that can be done even more effectively using other non-isolated natural substances as we shall discuss later). Nevertheless, studies have shown that if you take it within 48 hours of showing symptoms (during the viral incubation phase), you can shorten the duration of your flu. Notably, it can't prevent the spread of the disease, and it won't stop illnesses (like the common cold) that resemble the flu. It should also be noted that Tamiflu is not cheap with a normal 10-dose course costing upwards of $60 to $80 in the United States.
Relenza is similar to Tamiflu and also works by inhibiting neuraminidase. The primary difference is that instead of being administered as a tablet, it is given as a powder inhaled via a special device and deposited onto the surface of the lungs where the flu virus replicates. Oral dosing of Relenza is ineffective, which restricts its usage, as treating asthmatics or anyone else with a respiratory disease could induce bronchial spasms and is therefore contraindicated.
Fortunately, as we will discuss later, there are better options than Tamiflu and Relenza available.
From what you may have read, you might think that flu vaccines are God's answer to swine flu. In fact, they are significantly less than that. Even regular flu vaccines are far less effective than health experts would have you believe.
For example, a study cited in the Cochrane Review found that "in children under two years old, inactivated vaccines had the same effectiveness as a placebo." Even the conservative CDC claims that the flu vaccine has only a 66 percent success rate in children, which leaves 44 percent of those vaccinated still vulnerable. (Remember, the vaccine is formulated based on last year's flu strains, so it's not designed to work with current flu strains and often doesn't.) Considering that the reality probably lies somewhere between the CDC's 66% and the Cochrane Reviews' "placebo" assessment, the advisability of administering the vaccine to children under the age of five is questionable at best, given the risk factors.
And this is far from an isolated occurrence. In 2008, for example, the CDC announced that the annual flu vaccine was only 44% effective. And for children in particular, flu vaccinations made no difference in the number of hospitalizations. At best, the benefits of vaccination are questionable. And at worst, the news just keeps getting worse, with new vaccine resistant strains appearing like clockwork.
Which brings us to the swine flu vaccine.
First, let us be clear that as of this date, there is no swine flu vaccine -- nothing available, nothing tested, nothing even in testing. At the moment, any such vaccine is theoretical. However, best estimates are that a swine flu vaccine "should" be available for use by mid October -- but may not be widely available until December…or later. The bottom line is that if you're waiting for a vaccine to protect you, you may have a long wait -- especially considering, as we discussed earlier, that British health experts are expecting 100,000 new infections each and every day come the end of summer. (Note: one of the reasons for the expected explosion in cases is that schools reopen in many countries around that time, and schools are to germs what Facebook is to teenagers -- a place to easily meet and share in large numbers.) By the time December or January rolls around, there may not be too many people who haven't already been exposed.
Even more unsettling is that any vaccine released will be released in a rush, as the FDA has authorized an expedited approval process for H1N1 vaccine testing. And it's not just the FDA; European governments are also lining up to fast track the approval of swine flu vaccines now under development. Is this a problem? I don't know. Do you think it's a problem that Kathleen Sebelius, the nation's Health Secretary, just signed into law a grant of legal immunity to those making swine flu vaccines? What does she know that you don't?
Well, for one thing, she knows history. The last time the government embarked on a major vaccine campaign against a new swine flu in 1976, thousands of people filed claims contending they suffered side effects from the shots. In fact, one out of every thousand people who received the shot was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome; thousands of those suffered paralysis; and several hundred died.
And that, O Best Beloved, is why Secretary Sebelius signed away your right of recourse should the new swine flu vaccine produce similar results -- but potentially at four times the numbers. Will bad things happen? Not necessarily. Researchers certainly know a lot more than they did then, and they certainly have experience with annual flu shots -- that although they may not be that effective, they certainly don't produce results like the '76 vaccine. But the new swine flu vaccines are not like the annual vaccines. They will be for a very different strain and introduce entirely new antigens; they will be only marginally tested for safety; and they are likely to use a whole new cell based production process that introduces yet another unknown.
And then there are problems inherent in all flu vaccines. In fact, flu shots contain a large number of questionable ingredients -- beyond the largely untested viral antigens actually central to the vaccine. For example:
- Egg proteins, including contaminant avian viruses produced by the chickens. With the new swine flu, however, the vaccines may actually be cell based rather than egg based -- avoiding at least this one problem. On the other hand, cell based production is going much slower than expected, so we still might see a large number of egg based vaccines.
- Polysorbate 80 (Tween80™) can cause severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.
- Formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen.
- Gentamicin, an antibiotic that causes damage to the kidneys and nerves.
- And of course, thimerosal mercury is still used in multidose flu shots.
All in all, an unpleasant assortment of additives.
Who will get vaccinated?
At the moment, no one is actually mandating swine flu vaccines, but people sure are talking about it (legislators in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York for example). And on July 7th, the pharmaceutical industry-dominated Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization held an "extraordinary meeting in Geneva to discuss issues and make recommendations related to vaccine for the pandemic (H1N1) 2009." There are claims that the members of SAGE include executives from Baxter, Novartis, Glaxo-Smith Kline, and Sanofi Pasteur, but that is not accurate. SAGE is actually comprised of professors and health administrators from around the world. It has been "reported" that they recommended mandatory H1N1 vaccination for everyone in all 194 countries that belong to the World Health Organization (WHO). In response, the internet is abuzz with blogs and reports of secret plans in which the military will go door to door, enter your house, and force vaccinate you and your family. Is it possible? Certainly! Anything's possible. But it's hardly likely. On this issue, I have to stand apart from many in the alternative health community. I consider mandatory vaccination enforced by military intervention highly unlikely for the following reasons.
- Unless swine flu evolves to a much more virulent form, there's no need for mandatory vaccination. Theoretically, over a million people in the US have already come down with swine flu, and hardly anyone has noticed. Most people who have been infected by swine flu think so little of it, they believe they have a cold or a regular flu. It's just not that big of a deal.
- The only justification for "martial law" is to protect the fabric of society and to keep essential functions (police, fire, hospitals, etc.) operating. There is zero evidence at this point that swine flu will have anything close to that level of impact. There is no indication as yet that essential functions will be compromised.
- At least in the world's democracies, no country's military is large enough to take on house to house operations covering every single house in their country.
- In the US, the problem is even bigger since most of the military (including the National Guard) is now conducting house to house operations overseas. Heck, just look at how unavailable the military was after Katrina -- and that was just one medium sized city.
- A recommendation from SAGE does not make for a mandate. SAGE is merely an advisory group, and for that matter, other than in the rumor mill, I have not yet seen any recommendation from SAGE that talks of mandatory vaccination.
On the other hand, Government's are certainly talking about "prioritizing" who should be vaccinated first. In the United States, a "panel of health experts" just laid out a plan for prioritizing flu vaccinations in the likely event not enough is available to inoculate all Americans. The top priorities were designated as:
- Health care workers and emergency medical responders (including police, firefighters, paramedics, transit operators, and other critical workers) to keep them healthy and on the job, because their jobs are critical (that fabric of society thing)
- Pregnant women
- Children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years
- People aged 25 to 64 with medical problems such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
- The vaccine is also recommended for people caring for infants under 6 months, to prevent them from infecting the babies they care for
Notably absent from this list are the elderly because they seem to have some residual resistance to swine flu built up over the years.
For those of you living in countries outside the US smugly thinking your countries would never consider mandating swine flu vaccines like in the US, think again. Rumors of massive mandated vaccination campaigns abound for countries such as France, United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates -- to name just a few. But again, and this is very important to understand, just because "some" bureaucrats are discussing "game theory" options for implementing mandatory vaccinations, doesn't mean it's likely. War gaming is something bureaucrats like to do. It justifies their existence -- and their salaries.
Severe Respiratory Illness
So, all the fear mongering aside, what is the actual danger from Swine Flu?
First of all, as I discussed in May, there is still a possibility that swine flu could "evolve" over the next few months into a more virulent form as happened in 1918. At the moment, that's looking less likely, but possible. But even if that doesn't happen, the number of deaths will still be notable for two reasons. First, other than in the elderly, there is virtually no natural resistance to this strain of swine flu anywhere on the planet. That means it will spread rapidly -- as we are already seeing. Not that it will be "deadly" -- just that it will spread quickly. The other factor is that swine flu shares something in common with avian flu (not surprising since it shares some of its DNA) and the 1918 flu, just to a lesser degree. This strain of swine flu, like the avian flu and Spanish flu before it, seems to have the ability to turn a person's immune system against itself so that it literally attacks the victim's lungs in what is known as a cytokine storm -- and in extreme cases, literally eating them up. This is not theoretical. We see evidence of this as we read the reports of those who are dying now from swine flu and how they are dying --almost all from attacks on lung tissue, either directly or through secondary infection.
- As the New England Journal of Medicine phrased it, severe respiratory disease is running concurrent with the circulation of H1N1 influenza
- Or as they mentioned in another article, swine flu infection can cause severe illness, the acute respiratory distress syndrome, and death in previously healthy persons who are young to middle-aged
- Or as a University of Wisconsin study explicitly stated in the journal Nature: swine flu may mimic the flu virus which caused the great pandemic of 1918, in which millions died. The 1918 virus also had a greater ability than standard flu to cause damage to the respiratory system.
Unfortunately, this distinction has been lost on most people, so many "health experts" are advocating taking immune enhancing supplements in great abundance for protection against the swine flu. Am I saying that using immune boosters is a mistake? No! But I am saying that using natural immune boosters without using natural pathogen destroyers to take down the viral load very well might be.
Which brings us to the issue at hand …
What can you do to protect yourself against H1N1?
Well, first of all, you probably don't need to throw yourself a swine flu party to deliberately give yourself the disease to build resistance. That said, you might want to take a look at the WHO guidelines for individuals. Surprisingly, from an alternative health perspective, they mostly make sense. The only real problem I have with them is what they say about antivirals.
"Should I take an antiviral now just in case I catch the new virus?
"No. You should only take an antiviral, such as oseltamivir or zanamivir [Tamiflu and Relenza], if your health care provider advises you to do so. Individuals should not buy medicines to prevent or fight this new influenza without a prescription, and they should exercise caution in buying antivirals over the Internet."
What's wrong with that? Nothing if you limit your antivirals to Tamiflu and Relenza. Unfortunately, that leaves off a whole world of effective natural antiviral treatments that if used, are highly likely to:
- Prevent death
- Prevent the need for trips to the hospital
- Prevent you from actually getting a full blown flu in the first place if taken during the viral incubation phase
- Or significantly shorten the time of infection if you do come down with the full blown flu.
Can you protect yourself from the swine flu and speed recovery if you get it by using alternative therapies? Absolutely! But first, let me once again cover an important point. Many people on the net are advocating taking immune enhancing supplements in great abundance for protection against the swine flu. Having a good immune system is certainly a good thing. However, in the case of swine flu, it's not likely to be that helpful since much of your immune response is based on its memory of similar attacks -- and when it comes to swine flu, it has no memory. But there is a potentially bigger problem with jacking up your immune system. As we have already discussed, swine flu seems to have the ability to turn your immune system against itself so that it attacks your lungs; that is unless you also keep the viral load low. In fact, with colds and flus of any strain, it's always a good idea to use pathogen destroyers to take the viral load down. If nothing else, killing large numbers of the virus with an antipathogen just makes things that much easier for your immune system -- it has fewer invaders to deal with. But when it comes to avian flu and swine flu, it may actually save your life. And as for regular, seasonal flu, it will simply hold your symptoms in check and shorten the duration of your flu if you actually come down with it. Either way, you win. So with that in mind...
- Keep a supply of AHCC, olive leaf extract capsules, and grapefruit seed extract on hand. Use them whenever you travel or enter an environment such as a large office as a prophylactic measure.
- Have a stockpile of proteolytic enzymes on hand to reduce systemic inflammation -- particularly lung tissue inflammation -- which appears to be a contributing factor in causing complications when infected with swine flu, or any other flu for that matter.
- Keep a supply of a trusted natural pathogen destroying formula and a good immune building formula on hand -- or something like them. At the first sign of feeling unwell -- that scratch in the throat, a slightly feverish feeling, a dull body ache, an unexplained headache, etc. -- slam down a full mega dose of both. As any doctor will tell you (vis-a vis Tamiflu or Relenza), stopping the flu in the incubation phase is much, much, much easier than getting rid of it once it has established itself. If you hit it hard during incubation, you should be almost 100% effective in stopping it cold. If you allow it to incubate and fully manifest, it will take you several days to beat it back. It's true that you can significantly cut the time of your sickness, but it will still be several days, and you will need to keep taking the formulas for four to five days after you feel better to make sure you clear the virus from your body and it doesn't reassert itself. Fortunately, unlike medical antivirals, if you stop short, you are unlikely to breed resistant strains. By stopping short, I'm talking about taking your Tamiflu for only 2-3 days in an attempt to save some of your pills -- or splitting your 10 pill regimen with other family members if more than one person comes down with the flu at the same time. These actions allow some of the virus to survive, then replicate, and finally reemerge as a resistant strain.
Other options include elderberry extracts and a good blood cleansing formula. Most blood cleansers are very unfriendly to viruses and bacteria.
Bottom line: we are still not at panic time. There are things you can do to protect yourself and your family and virtually eliminate the risk of serious complications. And if the situation changes, I will keep you up-to-date on anything that might affect your health.