H1N1 Virus: Why be concerned? (Video & Newsletter)
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Why be Concerned?
The 2009 flu pandemic(phase 6) is a global outbreak of a new strain of an influenza A virus subtype H1N1, commonly called “ swine flu”. It is thought to be a blend of four known strains of influenza A virus: one endemic in humans, one endemic in birds, and two endemic in pigs ( swine). The outbreak began in Mexico. However, in early June, the virus spread globally and the World Health Organization ( WHO), now says by the time H1N1 runs its course, two billion people about 30 per cent of the world’s population, will be infected.The H1N1 is different than the seasonal flu. It a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat and lungs The H1N1 flu virus has caused primarily mild illness in Canada, but Canadians need to be prepared to respond to a potentially more severe form of the virus that may emerge this fall. Surveillance of its spread shows that it is affecting more young and healthy people than the regular seasonal flu which normally is at higher risk in seniors and young children.
Comparatively during a normal flu season The flu affects 10-25% of Canadians each year. While the majority who become sick will recover, the flu results in an average of 20,000 hospitalizations and 2,000 to 8,000 deaths in Canada each year.
What is the difference between the Human (Seasonal) Flu and the H1N1 Pandemic Flu?
The Human ( Seasonal ) Flu is a disease caused by influenza viruses carried and spread among humans.
The H1N1 Pandemic Flu is a :
• New strain of influenza virus that spreads quickly worldwide
• It is carried and spread among humans
• Humans have little or no immunity against it.
What are the Symptoms?
According to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, symptoms of H1N1 are similar to seasonal influenza (flu) including:
How is it spread?
The H1N1 flu virus is contagious and is spread the same way as regular seasonal influenza. More research is being done on how long a person can be infectious, but it is believed that this period is for approximately 8 days ( one day before and seven days after the onset of symptoms). The time it takes between being infected and experiencing symptoms is between two and seven days.
How many people in Canada have died from H1N1 Flu Virus?
78 as of Oct 6,09. (http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/alert-alerte/h1n1/surveillance-eng.php) The majority of Canadian cases of H1N1 Flu Virus have experienced mild illness and have recovered at home. Overall, the WHO is describing this pandemic as moderate. Typically between 4 000 and 8 000 Canadians can die of influenza and its complications annually, depending on the severity of the season.
How long does the virus live outside of the body?
The H1N1 Flu Virus can live outside the body on hard surfaces, such as stainless steel and plastic, for 24-48 hours and on soft surfaces, such as cloth, paper, and tissues for less than 8-12 hours; however, it can only infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on hard surfaces, and for up to a few minutes after being deposited on soft surfaces.
How long do symptoms last?
Most people with influenza recover completely in 1-2 weeks; however, some may have serious complications (particularly those with underlying conditions) since the severity of illness can vary. A person who is concerned about their health or wellbeing should contact a health care practitioner to discuss their personal circumstances.
What are the Health Connections?
The immune system is connected to the following:
Phase 1- The Nervous System – Balance of Sympathetic ( States of Energy ) and the Parasympathetic ( States of Rest , Healing , Growth and Digestion)
Phase 2- The Adrenal Gland 1 and 2. Adrenal 1 fight and flight hormones, Adrenal 2 fatigue and recovery
Phase 3 Digestion- up to 70% of Immunity can be related to digestion
Phase 4 Thyroid, Ovaries/Prostate, Liver
Phase 5 Chronic Inflammation – Cyotkinine Syndrome- Achiness, Fatigue
Phase 6 Weak Immunity – Frequent Colds, Flus , Strep, Allergies, Asthma
For details of each phase see Newsletter April Allergies, Asthma and Eczema
Do antibiotics help? And What about the flu shot?
No antibiotics are for bacteria whereby the flu is caused by viruses.
With the addition of free flu vaccines in Ontario many of you are asking should I get the flu shot? In Naturopathic philosophy we focus on host strength and improving immune function. Recognizing that we also focus on individual care, no one answer is right for all, so please discuss your situation with our individual Naturopath.
Should people get the H1N1 vaccination?
Influenza vaccines (also called flu shots) help you to prevent getting sick by introducing your body to a weakened or dead version of the virus to teach your body to build immunity to it. This year, there will be vaccines for both types of flu – one for the regular seasonal influenza, and one for the H1N1 flu virus.
It is the position of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the H1N1 vaccine is most beneficial for the elderly and those with other underlying conditions who are at risk of developing serious complications if they were to contract H1N1 or even the seasonal flu. People who are otherwise healthy are at lower risk, and
for a number of reasons may prefer not to be immunized.
What is clear is that everyone, whether or not they choose to get the H1N1 vaccine,
benefits from a strong immune system, and that’s where an ND can help most.
What are Medical Treatment Approaches?
No drugs can cure influenza, but certain antiviral medicines can relieve flu symptoms. Antivirals are drugs used for the early treatment of influenza. Antivirals are drugs used for the early treatment of influenza.If taken shortly after getting sick (within 48 hours), they can reduce influenza symptoms, shorten the length of illness and potentially reduce the serious complications of influenza. Antivirals do not prevent you from getting sick.
- If you get flu-like symptoms and are pregnant or have underlying health problems contact your healthcare providers ie Medical Doctor & Naturopathic Doctor.
- If you get flu-like symptoms and are otherwise healthy, you should stay home to recover. If your symptoms worsen or you experience difficulty breathing or serious shortness of breath, it is important to seek medical attention.
Canada has a National Antiviral Stockpile of 55 million doses of two antiviral drugs which inhibiti neuraminidase and are effective against both type A and type B strains including the H1N1 Virus:
- oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
- zanamivir (Relenza)
Antivirals are recommended for the treatment of moderate to severe illness, and for people at risk of severe disease. For treatment of influenza infection with the new pandemic virus, Tamiflu should be used twice daily for 5 days. For prevention of infection, it should be used once daily for at least 10 days but your doctor may suggest to use Tamiflu for 14 days. Your doctor will decide if treatment is right for you.
For general flu the drugs which are both in pill form , work against hemagglutin and are effective in treating type A influenza:
- amantadine (Symmetrel)
- rimantadine (Flumadine)
What is the difference between an antiviral and a vaccine?
Antivirals are drugs used for the prevention and early treatment of influenza. If taken shortly after getting sick (within 48 hours), they can reduce influenza symptoms, shorten the length of illness and potentially reduce the serious complications of influenza.
Antivirals work by reducing the ability of the virus to reproduce but do not provide immunity against the virus. The H1N1 Flu Virus can be treated with two different antivirals, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).
A vaccine is any preparation intended to produce immunity to a disease by stimulating the production of antibodies. In order to provide the best protection, a vaccine must be tailored to fight off specific strains of influenza.
Does the H1N1 vaccine contain mercury? If so, won’t this pose a risk?
As a multi-dose vaccine, the H1N1 influenza vaccine will contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal to prevent contamination of the vaccine by serious infectious agents from the growth of bacteria. Thimerosal also has a stabilizing effect on the vaccine, ensuring its effectiveness.
The seasonal flu vaccine and most hepatitis B vaccines are also multi-dose vaccines and thimerosal is added during the manufacturing process to maintain sterility of the vaccine.
There is no safety reason to avoid using vaccines containing thimerosal. Scientific evidence to date shows no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and any adverse health condition, including neurodevelopmental disorders like autism. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has reviewed the safety of thimerosal and concluded that: “There is no legitimate safety reason to avoid the use of thimerosal-containing products for children or older individuals, including pregnant women.” International bodies, such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, share this opinion.
What is the difference between and adjuvanted and non-adjuvanted vaccine?
An adjuvant is a substance that is added to a vaccine in order to boost the individual’s response. It also means that less of the virus or “antigen” is needed to make a dose of the vaccine. Unadjuvanted vaccine has no “booster” element, and more antigen is needed to create this kind of vaccine. Pregnant woman are recommended to use the non-adjuvanted form of the vaccine as no clinical data of the safety of adjuvanted vaccine in this group is available.
What Organs Make Up Your Immune System?
What is important to natural treatment is to understand is which organs make up your immune system:
While bone marrow isn’t considered an organ, it is vital to the immune system and therefore shouldn’t go unmentioned. Bone marrow is a tissue that lies inside most of your bones. It creates hematopoietic stem cells through the process of hematopoiesis.
These stem cells differentiate into all sorts of blood and lymphatic cells – such as red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, immature thymocytes, B cells, etc – in response to hormones released by cells which make up the bone marrow. Some cells of the immune system mature in the bone marrow while some travel to other areas of the body to complete their maturation.
The thymus is a small, butterfly-shaped organ which lies between your breastplate and your heart. You probably haven’t heard of it because after adolescence it doesn’t do much. It is fully developed at birth and grows until puberty, after which it becomes fatty and shrinks to about 15% of its maximum size. During its most active time, the thymus is responsible for directing the maturation of immature thymocytes into T cells. T cells are like the managers of the immune system, instructing other cells how to react to foreign substances.
During this maturation in the thymus, T cells learn to differentiate between “self” (the body’s own cells) and “nonself” (foreign objects, organisms, or diseased cells). If a T cell thinks a self cell is foreign, it is destroyed as it could cause the effects of an autoimmune disease, if allowed to leave the thymus.
The spleen performs several functions; it filters the blood, destroying old or damaged blood vessels. It also contains many specialized cells (e.g. T cells) of the immune system which look for foreign particles as blood circulates through it. T cells also receive information from migratory dendritic cells and macrophages, which ingest foreign microorganisms and present their pieces to T cells. If a T cell recognizes a presented particle as foreign, it instructs a B cell (which also recognizes the particle) to create antibodies against it.
Lymph nodes are a bit like the spleen, but instead of filtering blood they filter lymph. Lymph is composed of fluids which drain from tissues. It is collected at certain places within the body and circulates through a series of lymph nodes and eventually returns to the blood for circulation.
Unwelcome microorganisms enter the lymph nodes either by circulating with lymph or by being ingested by a cell which then travels to the lymph node. Lymph nodes contain the same specialized cells found in the spleen, which sample the incoming particles and respond accordingly.
These important organs make up the framework of the immune system, providing meeting locations for specialized cells to communicate.
What are our Natural Treatment Options?
Canadians spend over 300 million dollars a year on over the counter cold and flu medicines yet these will not cure the cold or flu. Natural options have been found to prevent and reduce the duration of the cold or flu. Our goal is to keep the immune system sharpe. Having your immune system on high alert – particularly if you are prone to colds and flus – is a good idea throughout the season. The flu shot primes your immune cells to remember a specific strain of the flu virus. For broader protection consider the following to give your immune system a bit of a headstart should any virus breach your primary immune defenses:
1. Washing your hands- Research shows that by washing your hands-for at least 10 seconds with soap and water you can reduce the microbes on your hands by up to 90%. It is estimated that this translates to the reduction of colds and flus by up to 16% and diarrhea by 50%.
2. Rest- This is what your body needs and by pushing yourself you don’t allow the adrenals to reset leading in the future to more serious health concerns
3. Drink plenty of fluids which help to thin mucus allowing better and faster drainage as well as creating a more effective barrier.
4. Alkalinize -An acidic environment in the body will reduce your immune system’s capacity to function at it’s optimum.
5. Lymphatic Support ie Lymph A-Lymph is a fluid containing mostly white blood cells that has a big role in supporting your immune system and removing toxins from your body. Unfortunately, many of us become more susceptible to viruses such as the H1N1 because our Lymphatic system is unable to work properly. Poor posture, stress, and excessive amounts of toxins from your environment and lifestyle may be impacting your lymphatic system and therefore immune system
6. Vitamin C- assists in the relief of cold symptoms and to help the body fight the infection. Add fruits like citrus, kiwi and strawberries to your next salad.
7. Grape Seed Extract- as an antioxidant it, protects against digestive & respiratory infections
8. Antimicrobials ie Oil of Oregano- clinically proven antiviral agent
9. Echinacea- Research shows that Echinacea can help prevent the common cold by up to 58% and when used in combination with vitamin C by up to 86%. Echinacea is also an excellent blood purifier thus facilitating the cleaning of dead cells and other debris through the lymphatic system for removal. A high quality tincture will give you a slight numb or tingly feeling when held at the back of the tongue.
10. Garlic-has microbial properties and helps boost the immune system. Allicin is one of the plant kingdom’s most potent antibiotic.
11. Onion is a close relative of Garlic and has similar properties.
12. Ginger has antiviral, pain relieving and antioxidant properties. It is valuable for preventing and treating colds, sore throats and inflammation of mucus membranes. Ginger is great added to hot drinks and fruit smoothies.
13. Goldenseal-is both antiseptic and immune stimulating, increasing blood supply to the spleen. The spleen is the bodies staging area for the fighting cells in your immune system. The berberine present in goldenseal activates macrophages ( special white blood cells) which destroy microbes.
14. Licorice-contains antiviral compounds that induce the release of interferon, the bodies own anti-viral constituents. It is an expectorant and anti inflammatory making it excellent for stubborn coughs and lung infections.
15. Sage-soothes sore throats as it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. For an inflamed throat and horseness use a hot sage infusion or gargle with sage, apple cider vinegar and honey mix
16. Peppermint- is an expectorant thus aids in coughs, it also reduces fevers by inducing sweating and cooling the body.
17. Yarrow-has anti inflammatory properties, great for fevers and a hot yarrow tea will promote sweating.
18. St John’s Wort-for antiviral activity
19. Acidophillus-is recommended to take all cold and flu season. 70% of immunity is related to digestion and thus by promoting the right friendly bacteria for the upper GI and lower GI one can promote optimal health of the bowls and thus immunity.Over 400 distinct species of micro organisms inhabit the various regions of the human digestive tract, making up nearly four pounds of every individual’s total body weight.
20. Homeopathic Prevention- individual programs are available to stimulate your thymus gland ( immune gland) , your immunity to the flu virus and strengthen your lungs, with your Naturopath that begin in the fall and carry thru to the winter on a weekly basis
21. Homeopathics-Oscillococcinum/Dolicoccil/Mucoccocinum are remedies that stimulate one’s immunity specifically for the flu. Often after taking these remedies one will experience a fever then feel much better shortly after.
Many more options exist. We recommend having your health individually assessed to ensure that any of the above products are right for you and do not interfere with any exisiting health conditions or medications that you are taking.