Preparing for Flu Season

by on August 17th, 2011 at 7:00 am

Flu SeasonYou can stop worrying about the swine flu pandemic. On August 10th 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to it. 1

It was scary when the WHO first announced the pandemic in June 2009.2 According to the Los Angeles Times, the CDC estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans might die if the vaccine for the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, didn’t work.3

CBC News even reported that scientists had traced the roots of the recent swine flu to the deadly 1918 Spanish flu.4 One study notes that the Spanish flu infected one third of the global population and killed 50 million people from 1918 to 1919.5

But what do people do to protect themselves against the flu? They boost the power of their immune system.

There are several ways to support the human immune system during flu season. There’s the seasonal flu shot and there are herbs like peppermint.

The Flu Shot

The current flu shot protects against three strains of the flu, including H1N1, the swine flu.6 But several things have cast doubt on the usefulness of the swine flu vaccine: problematic swine flu estimates, vaccine safety concerns, and conflicts of interest among health professionals.

There are questions about the safety of the vaccine. In August 2009, the Daily Mail reported that the British government had expressed concern that there might be a link between the swine flu vaccine and Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).7

GBS is an autoimmune disorder in which the human body attacks its own peripheral nervous system, causing paralysis. In autoimmune disorders, the body’s immune system becomes overstimulated.

A recent study from the British Medical Journal says there’s no “substantial” link between the adjuvanted swine flu vaccine and Guillain-Barre syndrome.8

But caution is still warranted. A 2008 study found that flu vaccines can induce antibodies that are associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).9 And then there’s the case of high school student Jordan McFarland. In November 2009, MSNBC.com said that McFarland had come down with GBS only hours after getting the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine.10

In addition, projected estimates for illness and death from the swine flu were extremely flawed. In fact, there may have been far fewer people infected with the virus than officials thought.

During the 2009 pandemic, CBS News said that swine flu cases had been overestimated.11 “In late July [2009], the CDC abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu, and stopped counting individual cases,” said the news company. So, CBS concluded that many Americans who were diagnosed with swine flu probably didn’t have it.

Conflicts of interest among health advisors are also troublesome. According to the Daily Mail, advisors to the World Health Organization had ties to drug companies that were making the swine flu vaccine.12 And the World Health Organization is the very agency that declared the swine flu to be a pandemic in 2009.

Peppermint

Peppermint might help provide some benefits during flu season.

In an animal study, scientists found that a combination of oils from peppermint and eucalyptus was able to kill the avian influenza virus, also known as bird flu.13

In another study, patients who were exposed to a spray that included peppermint oil got relief from the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.14 Why does that matter? The Cleveland Clinic says the flu involves the upper respiratory tract.15

Upper respiratory tract infections are caused by viruses and can inflame the nasal cavity, sinuses, voice box, and throat. The American Rhinologic Society lists the symptoms as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, nasal discharge, fatigue, headache, fever, decreased smell, muscle aches, ear fullness, and itchy eyes.16

Sources

  1. Director-General Margaret Chan, “H1N1 in Post-Pandemic Period,” World Health Organization
  2. Director-General Margaret Chan, “World Now at the Start of 2009 Influenza Pandemic,” World Health Organization
  3. Thomas H. Maugh II, “Swine Flu Could Kill Hundreds of Thousands in U.S. If Vaccine Fails, CDC Says,” Los Angeles Times
  4. CBC News, “Swine Flu Roots Traced to Spanish Flu.”
  5. Jeffery K. Taubenberger and David M. Morens, “1918 Influenza: the Mother of All Pandemics,” Emerging Infectious Diseases
  6. Flu.gov, “Vaccination.”
  7. Jo Macfarlane, “Swine Flu Jab Link to Killer Nerve Disease: Leaked Letter Reveals Concern of Neurologists Over 25 Deaths in America,” Daily Mail
  8. British Medical Journal, “No Substantial Link Between Swine Flu Vaccine and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Confirm Experts,” Science Newsline Medicine
  9. Nachamkin I., “Anti-Ganglioside Antibody Induction by Swine (A/NJ/1976/H1N1) and Other Influenza Vaccines: Insights Into Vaccine-Associated Guillain-Barré Syndrome,” The Journal of Infectious Diseases
  10. JoNel Aleccia, “Va. Teen Suffers Rare Illness After Swine Flu Shot,” MSNBC.com
  11. Sharyl Attkisson, “Swine Flu Cases Overestimated?” CBS News
  12. Sophie Borland, “Swine Flu Advisers’ Ties to Drug Firms: Five WHO Experts Linked with Vaccine Producers,” Daily Mail
  13. Elie K. Barbour et al, “Safety and Antiviral Activity of Essential Oil Against Avian Influenza and NewCastle Disease Viruses,” The International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine
  14. Ben-Arye E. et al, “Treatment of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections in Primary Care: A Randomized Study Using Aromatic Herbs,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM
  15. Sherif B. Mossad, “Upper Respiratory Tract Infections,” Cleveland Clinic
  16. Samer Al-Khudari and Jay M. Dutton, “Upper Respiratory Infections,” American Rhinologic Society


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One Response to “Preparing for Flu Season”

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