The Truth About Bird Flu

October 26, 2005 at 5:25 pm Leave a comment

Are you as tired as I am of the media hysteria concerning bird flu? Or, are you worried about the consequences for yourself and your family? In this letter I will present the facts regarding this “epidemic” and provide you with strategies to use for any strain of influenza.

First the facts, based upon information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The current situation (www.cdc.gov, updated October 12, 2005) is that from January 2004 to October 10, 2005, a total of 117 human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) were reported in Asia. Of these cases, 60 were fatal (51%) and these were mostly poor poultry farmers (FoxNews.com, WHO press release, October 14, 2005). These cases were a result of contact with infected poultry. The virus can also be transmitted by uncooked poultry products or surfaces contaminated with feces. Basically, the virus is passed by contact with contaminated feces. And, in many countries in Asia, people live with their fowl in their homes.

Let’s put those numbers in perspective: 100 cases of the disease and 60 deaths world wide (out of a population of approximately 6 billion) does not an epidemic make. In fact, you have a much greater risk of getting hit by a car while crossing the street than you have of contracting this flu virus. That’s particularly true if you do not keep chickens, ducks or turkeys! WHO spokesman Dick Thompson pointed out that “People confuse it [the bird flu] with pandemic influenza, but they’re very different diseases. If people just paid attention to the human risk” from bird flu, they’d understand that “the possibility of infection is very low.”

This virus was first identified in 1961 in wild birds (terns) in South Africa (CDC). The virus circulates among birds world wide, and while very contagious between birds, causes minimal disease in wild birds. Recently, however, the H5N1 viruses have begun to cause severe and fatal disease among domesticated birds, such as chickens and turkeys. However, the evidence to date indicates that this virus does not spread easily from birds to infect humans (WHO).

There has been a great deal of emphasis on the possibility that the virus may mutate to be transmissable from human to human and result in another pandemic like the 1918 influenza. The result has been a great deal of anxiety and fear, with little or no basis in fact. Yes, the 1918 influenza pandemic was caused by a bird flu; but, most of the strains of flu that circulate every year originate in birds. Do you remember the “Hong Kong Flu” in the ’70s? That was an avian virus and it caused a pandemic. However, the number of deaths in no way approached the 1918 epidemic. In 1918 conditions were unique, because of the movement of troops in World War I.

If you want to read a fascinating tale about the origin and spread of the virus in 1918, I highly recommend the book Flu, The 1918 Pandemic and the Search For The Virus That Caused It, by Gina Kolata. I read it last summer and couldn’t put it down. The key points about the 1918 pandemic that are germane to the current situation is that young men from rural settings, many of whom were already sick when they reported for training, were packed together in extremely crowded conditions. Some of these boys were shipped out to other military facilities (and even to Europe) while they were incubating the virus. These factors were a recipe for disaster, spreading the virus world wide in just a matter of months.

Yes, the virus may mutate to be transmissable between humans; however, any such mutation may also reduce its virulence. Then again, it may not mutate. The point is — No one knows! And, epidemics in birds have been occurring for many years.

What’s different now? Do you remember last year’s hysteria about the SARS “epidemic”? There were approximately 8,000 cases in 29 countries (www.cdc.gov). And about 300 people died. In the U.S., 8 people had laboratory evidence of SARS, and no one died. As of October 6, 2004, there were no reported cases of SARS anywhere in the world. (www.cdc.gov) How is that an epidemic? What is going on?

On FoxNews.com dated October 13, 2005, I found an interesting article from WebMD. Were you aware that in 1999 the drug manufacturer Roche Holding AG brought out the first patented drug that can treat viral diseases? Perhaps you’ve heard of Tamiflu. As reported by WebMD, until recently, in most markets, sales of Tamiflu “were well below the company’s expectations. But that changed last year, when WHO recommended governments stockpile antiviral durgs, such as Tamiflu. . . . Consequently, sales of Tamiflu from January to June 2005, were nearly double the number in 2004.” It is also interesting that Roche is the sole manufacturer of Tamiflu and has stated that there was no question of relinquishing its patent, which is protected until 2016. This was in response to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan’s suggestion that the usual patent rules may have to be suspended if there is an outbreak of avian flu. His suggestion was that other companies could also make the medicine, increasing the supply.

It seems to me the media coverage of viral diseases has increased dramatically with the advent of Tamiflu. Unfortunately, no one knows whether Tamiflu will be effective should this bird flu mutate to be transmissable between humans. Additionally, Tamiflu has some limitations. It has only been proven effective against influenza strains A and B. Furthermore, a partial list of side effects includes: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bronchitis, stomach pain, dizziness and headache. And the latest information, published in Forbes on October 14, 2005 (FoxNews.com) is that the bird flu is showing resistance to Tamiflu.

So, now what?? What’s a person to do? I believe that the best defense against viral diseases in general, and influenza in particular, is a healthy immune system. How to achieve that? It’s simple, really. Get enough rest, limit stress and be sure you get adjusted regularly. Adjustments increase your immune function. Recent studies have shown that children who are adjusted regularly are sick less often and miss fewer school days, as compared to children who do not receive chiropractic care. I still remember what Dr. Ralph Martin told me about the 1918 epidemic. He was 15 at the time and living in the Dakotas. His hometown was hit with the epidemic and all the doctors were working over time. There was one chiropractor in town, a woman, and she was the only doctor who didn’t lose a single patient. What she did was visit every family on her patient list and adjust every member of the family every single day – until the epidemic ended. That was the impetus for Dr. Martin studying chiropractic and becoming a doctor.

In addition to adjustments, two other measures are helpful against influenza: Echinacea root and St. John’s Wort (specifically, the Medi-Herb product which is anti-viral). Echinacea Premium (the Medi-Herb brand) enhances your immune response in general. I recommend a dose of 2 tablets per day for prevention during cold and flu season every year. If you start to feel “flu-y”, i.e., achey joints and muscles, high fever, immediately begin taking Med-Herb St. John’s Wort at a dose of 2 tablets, 3 times per day for adults. (If you have children, call with their body weight and I can give you the appropriate dosage over the phone). Unfortunately, St. John’s Wort is NOT effective against approximately 50% of the viruses that cause the common cold, since they are unencapsulated. A great deal of research has been done on St. John’s Wort’s effectiveness with viral disease. (See the article on this site regarding St. John’s Wort and all of the studies that have been done.) Finally, there is a homeopathic on the market Oscillococcinum by Boiron that is based upon bird flu virus. It is a general remedy which strengthens the immune response to avian viruses. It can be obtained at health food stores and some drug stores. It is best used when you are first exposed to the virus and shou ld be taken daily for 3 to 4 days. If symptoms develop, the dosage is even higher. We don’t stock this product at the RFHC because it is very expensive, and I believe that Echinacea Premium and St. John’s Wort are more effective options.

So, in conclusion, don’t panic. Take care of your overall health. Take Echinacea Premium through the winter months (flu season) and keep a bottle of St. John’s Wort on hand so that you can take it immediately should you become ill. And, get regular adjustments to maintain optimum immune function.

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Entry filed under: Alternative Health Care News, Avian Flu.

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