Given these startling statistics, it’s important to keep in mind we’re lucky that H1N1 is only almost identical to the 1918 influenza virus. H1N1 is a formidable virus, but there are several steps people can take to help safeguard themselves from the virus and prevent its spread, including natural ways to boost immunity.
A Brief Historical Lesson:
Public health statistics reveal more than 30 pandemics in the 20th century. The 1918 influenza pandemic was by far the worst, based on fatalities and its shocking impact on young people. It's now known that the 1918 influenza virus carried a mutation that made it extremely contagious and sometimes resulted in rapid, extreme pulmonary collapse. Victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic often survived the acute infection only to develop secondary bacterial infections which took advantage of their weakened immune systems.
In 1918, public health officials only had a limited understanding of effective isolation strategies. Take this startling example:
At the start of the pandemic, Philadelphia citizens were encouraged to stay home. Schools and businesses were closed, but a previously planned parade and community event around the sale of war bonds was allowed to proceed. Subsequently, huge numbers of residents contracted influenza within days of the parade, completely overwhelming hospitals, doctors, nurses, mortuaries and graveyards.
Our cultural memory of life threatening diseases can be described as spotty at best. The 1918 pandemic and the severe impact felt in the United States occurred less than one hundred years ago, but today, there are no strong cultural memories of the illness. It's been suggested that because the pandemic was so severe, the survivors were affected by a version of post-traumatic stress syndrome disorder and did not discuss the pandemic with their children. Others propose that the mobilization to fight World War I combined with the deaths associated with combat overwhelmed the memories of the pandemic.
Seasonal Influenza and H1N1 Today:
Seasonal influenza infects large numbers of people around the world every fall and winter, and while it can be highly debilitating, most people survive. The seasonal flu usually lasts 7 to 10 days, after which victims are often compromised by weakened immune systems. Influenza is highly contagious as it is able survive on inert objects like door knobs for 12 to 24 hours, and can be spread by coughing and sneezing. Overall mortality due to influenza is generally less than 5%. H1N1 is a particularly virulent version of the influenza virus because it spreads faster and has a higher mortality rate than normal seasonal influenza viruses.
The best response to the current influenza threat is to prevent the spread of the virus, maintain a healthy immune system and to educate yourself about the behavior of the current threat. Medical science has now had an opportunity to study a variety of remedies for influenza, including herbs and vitamins, which also apply to fighting the H1N1 virus. These remedies can be divided into two groups – those which are likely to help prevent infection by helping the immune system and those that can help fight the symptoms once infection has taken hold.
Consider the following steps to strengthen the immune system:
Don’t forget the basics. Maintain good hygiene – wash your hands frequently, stay hydrated, eat as much nutrient-rich, natural food as possible, avoid sugar and get adequate sleep.
Elderberry, Echinacea, Lomatium, and Vitamin D3 (5000 IU/day) all strengthen the immune system
Medicinal Mushroom compounds, are highly effective immune boosters. I prescribe Mycophyto Complex by EcoNugenics, a medicinal mushroom blend cultivated on immune enhancing herbs for optimal support.
The H1N1 vaccine may not be necessary for everyone. This is a highly personal choice, but I do recommend the vaccine for priority groups identified by the CDC and adults in high public exposure situations such as bus drivers or college students living in dorm rooms.
Consider a thimerosal-free vaccine for yourself and your children. Some H1N1 vaccines contain thimerosal, a mercury-based stabilizer, which has been eliminated from routinely recommended childhood vaccines. If you choose to get the H1N1 vaccine for yourself or your child, ask your doctor for a thimerosal-free vaccine.
To treat the symptoms of a flu-like illness, I recommend the following:
Make sure to get plenty of liquids and rest.
Decongestant herbs and Boneset tea to alleviate aches and pains.
Remember, NO aspirin. If the flu victim develops chest or lung congestion, asthma, or trouble breathing, see a doctor immediately.
Osteopathic medical history has documented positive responses to Osteopathic manipulation used to treat flu victims as it augments respiratory circulation and prevents secondary pneumonias (R. Hruby, K Hoffman “Avian influenza: an osteopathic component to treatment.”).
It is extremely important to remember that both the H1N1 virus and season flu are highly contagious. If you get the flu, you are contagious from the day before symptoms show until 3-4 days after symptoms disappear. Stay home from work or school during this time. You can help prevent secondary infections by staying home or in bed for another few days, or until your energy returns.
You can find more information by downloading Natural Solutions to Sail You Through Cold and Flu Season a free health report that provides additional information about natural ways to prepare for flu season. The report is available for download by visiting Dr.Eliaz
Additional Historical Reading:
Flu: the Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic by Gina Kolata and The Great Influenza: The story of the deadliest pandemic in history by John M. Barry Are Excellent Histories Of the 1918 influenza pandemic, and also describe the state of medicine in the early 20th century. The history of infectious disease has been particularly well explored in the last few years in books like Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, both by Jared Diamond.
About Dr. Cheri Quincy:
Dr. Cheri Quincy has been bringing integrative approaches to her practice for two decades, and was a founder of one of the first preventive health curricula for medical students in 1982. She has produced a conference on Death & Dying, and has been invited to lecture on life transitions by groups as various as the International Conference on Shamanism and the American Osteopathic Association. She has been interviewed on New Dimensions radio, WBAI Radio (The Positive Mind) in NYC and KQED in San Francisco. She has been an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of North Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, and has special interests in aging and life transitions.
Holding and directing the energies of the Amitabha Clinic staff, she recruits the wisdom of her colleagues, and applies scientific, practical, comprehensive approaches to direct a return to health.
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