Saturday, January 12, 2013

Flu Shot... Or Not?

Guest post, written by Bree Bell

The number of confirmed flu cases across the US continues to rise.  Have you heard the news?  Who hasn’t?  From regional to national news, the morning paper, the internet, and the locals… everyone is abuzz with the latest influenza scare.

It seems as though this season’s early, nasty flu bug is picking up steam quickly, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting on Friday, (1-11-13), that 47 states had reported heavily active flu activity.  This latest bit of news seems to have people scampering to their nearest clinic or drugstore to get a flu vaccination before it’s too late.  But just how effective IS this vaccine?

According to the CDC the vaccine is likely to be at least 60% effective, and that’s better than nothing, right?  Not so fast! Young healthy adults and older children seem to be the ones that may benefit most from the vaccine according to multiple sources, including the CDC itself.   What about the very young?  The aged?  What about those with an already compromised immune system? What about the average everyday “Joe?”

The CDC states that the influenza vaccine’s effectiveness can vary from year to year regardless of age group, but certainly among the younger or older and high risk groups its efficacy can be questionable. 

I must admit that in our household (2 adults and three children) we have never all received a yearly flu vaccination, and none of us has ever come down with the flu.  Well, until this year.  And oddly enough this was the year that my husband got a flu vaccination shot.  Within 24 hours the poor man was weak and feverish.  Within 48 hours he was absolutely unable to stand up.  The incredible weakness, muscle aches, pains, and high fever with horrendous shivering had him suffering for six days.  I dosed him up with Oscillococcinum (a homeopathic remedy by Boiron to help reduce the length and severity of flu symptoms, which did actually help, in my opinion, as I carefully observed him after each dosing. )

I spoke with a nurse at our physician’s office who freely admitted to me that this year they were seeing a higher incidence of people coming down with the flu or experiencing strong flu-like symptoms AFTER being vaccinated.  Of course there is always the possibility that any one person was already infected, or the fact that the vaccine does not offer any kind of immunities for approximately 2 weeks after the shot.  In addition, the seasonal flu vaccine can only potentially protect against the three influenza viruses that researchers indicate “might” be most common per season.  (“Might” as in they cannot predict with absolute certainty from one year to the next.) With the large number of viral strains circulating at any one time out there, how well of a match all three can be is nothing short of a roll of the dice sometimes.  

As an additional note, the flu vaccine also contains potentially harmful compounds, toxic preservatives, and carcinogens, which is enough to stir up an entirely separate debate.  Suddenly, this flu vaccination was seeming even more questionable.

I decided to dig further and discovered that in fact it was true that a great number of people were experiencing what they considered to be full blown influenza AFTER being vaccinated.  Yet, the CDC’s website states that one cannot get the flu from the vaccine because it contains a killed/inactive virus.  Furthermore, they list the potential side effects of the vaccine as nothing more than a possible mild reaction with soreness at injection site, low grade fever, and slight achiness for a day or two.  Now, go ask any of the extremely ill people that experienced this post flu shot “mild reaction” for their opinions on the CDC’s comments, and they are going to laugh in your face… my husband being one of them.

After witnessing what my husband had experienced and reading countless other’s tales of vaccination woes, maybe it’s best to simply stick with some basic flu prevention methods such as:

*Eating a well balanced diet.  In addition to proper nutrition, it is vital to reduce sugar intake.  Did you know that ingesting just a few grams of sugar can destroy your white blood cell’s ability to resist infection for several hours? 

*Moderate exercise. For example, a brisk walk or yoga can help circulate the blood and drive the lymphatic system .  Lymph flow is essential to removing excess toxins from the body. 

*A good nights sleep.  This helps boost the immune system. 

*Avoiding unnecessary crowds.  In areas or communities hit hard by the virus it may be best to skip shopping at the local malls or hitting the movie theater. Did you know that the flu virus can be spread up to 6 feet through coughs and sneezes?

*Washing hands for no less then 20 seconds… several times per day if you have been out and about. 

*Disinfection with proper sanitizing agents.  Did you know that flu germs can live on surfaces for up to 8 hours?  Vinegar, thyme oil, oregano oil, and hydrogen peroxide are all effective, safe, and natural disinfectants. 

Studies indicate that the following supplements may also help as flu preventatives:

*Echinacea (May decrease inflammatory responses and serve as an immune system booster)

*Vitamin C (May help immune cell response and decrease duration of illness)

*Zinc (May stop viruses from bonding to host cells)

*Garlic (Natural antibiotic and antiviral)

*Probiotics (May improve immune system response )

*Vitamin D (Reported as a strong immune system booster)

Homeopathic alternatives to the flu vaccination and potential helpful remedies for illness other than Oscillococcinum alone may be found here.

Keep informed and stay healthy!

Bree Bell attended Purdue and Indiana Universities majoring in Chemical and Medical Laboratory Technology.  She is a former pharmaceutical technician and 2010 Doctor of Naturopathy graduate of Trinity College of Natural Health.