Be Prepared for the upcoming Flu Season
By JP Saleeby, MD
By JP Saleeby, MD
As the Flu season approaches, we need to be prepared. The Flu, which is different from the common cold, inflicts significant morbidity and even mortality and should be taken seriously. The Flu is caused by the Influenza virus of which there are three types (A, B & C). Type A is the most common and it is the subtypes of A and B that cause the seasonal outbreaks. The constant mutations of these viruses make it necessary to vaccinate annually. Everyone is affected, from the very young to the older adult. Most outbreaks or epidemics occur in late fall and early winter. It has been reported that as many as 20,000 deaths and over 100,000 hospitalizations occur each year in the USA due to the flu. Those deaths are highest in the elderly (over 65), folks with diabetes, HIV, nursing home residents, pregnant women and those with chronic diseases of the lung, heart and kidneys.
A person is contagious for up to 5 days after onset with symptoms that include high fever, aches in joints, muscles and around the eyes, weakness, headache, dry cough, sore throat and watery discharge from nose and eyes. Annually, there are many that miss considerable time from work in the winter months due to infection with this virus.
You acquire the flu virus through contact with contaminated aerosols or droplets found on surfaces such as doorknobs and telephones. So prevention is crucial. Of course maintaining a health lifestyle (not smoking, eating right, plenty of exercise) is important as is taking care not to come in contact with potential contaminants (good hand washing, not sharing cups with others, etc.) And vaccinations are of critical importance especially to those high-risk individuals. They may even be lifesaving.
The flu vaccine (shot) is unique each year, being made up of inactivated A & B viruses. It is injected into the upper arm and should be taken in early fall (from October to mid-November) because it takes two weeks to confer immunity. But once protected (it is considered 70 – 90% effective), it can protect you from the symptoms of the flu, lost work, hospitalization and even death. Who should get the flu shot? Anyone over 50, those with chronic diseases, those with HIV/AIDS, women over 14 weeks pregnant, residents of nursing homes, health care workers, bank tellers, waitresses, students especially those living in dormitories, and those people interested in reducing risk for the flu. Side effects to the shot are rare but include soreness and mild muscle aches or low-grade fever for only a couple of days. These untoward effects are most often noticed in children. Life threatening allergic reaction and something called Guillain-Barre syndrome are extremely rare reactions to the vaccine. But those allergic to eggs should probably avoid the shot.
Myths about the flu shot such as getting the flu from it are unfounded. Since it contains the killed form of the virus, it is impossible to actually acquire the syndrome. Another myth is that one shot in you life will do, but since the virus mutates from season to season, revaccination with new strains must occur each season.
What happens should you get the flu? Well, there are standard medications that should be started within 24 hours of symptoms such as Amantadine, Rimantadine (Flumadine), Zanamivir (Relenza) and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu). The prescription usually lasts 5 to 7 days and it may cut short the course of infection and prevent serious complications such as pneumonia. Decongestants such as phenylephrin and pseudoephedrin are helpful with symptoms. Antibiotics are not indicated unless there is a secondary bacterial infection. Antibiotics are useless against the flu virus.
Nutritional medicine offers high doses of vitamin C, and Zinc. Herbal remedies include Echinacea (E. purpurea root extract) and Goldenseal (H. candadesis root extract). Other immune boosting compounds are extract of maitake and reishi mushrooms, garlic and transfer factor (an extract of colostrum). A very powerful tool in the early treatment of the flu is something called the Myers’ Cocktail. This is a rapid intravenous infusion of high dose vitamins and minerals given over 10 minutes. It has proven effects in reduction of symptoms, viral spread and getting you back on your feet quickly after being infected. Myers’ cocktails must be administered in the doctor’s office and depending on how severe the illness, one to three treatments during a course may be indicated. If caught early, a Myers’ Cocktail may be the most effective remedy in the treatment of the flu. The Myers’ Cocktail is also useful in many other maladies, but for acute respiratory and viral infections, it stands heads above other treatments.
Another more detailed Article on the Flu by Dr. Saleeby: http://southcarolinawellness.blogspot.com/2010/10/just-in-time-for-flu-season.html