Every year, officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) look into a crystal ball and try to figure out which strains of Type A and Type B influenza will be prevalent in the U.S.. Sometimes they guess right and sometimes they guess wrong. This year, they guessed wrong as more than half of the influenza virus strains circulating in the U.S. right now are Type A and B strains that are not covered in this year's influenza vaccine. See U.S. expresses concern about vaccine as flu cases up.
In a typical flu season, only 20 percent of all flu-like illness are actually influenza. In 2003-2004 a mini-epidemic of a more severe type of influzenza caused by the A/Fujian strain occurred around the world, including the U.S. In spring of 2003, federal health agencies and the pharmaceutical industry knew the genetically mutated type A flu was emerging out of Asia and causing significant complications, including death, but chose not to include it in the 2003/2004 flu vaccine formula after the WHO voted to stay with strains that had been included in the previous year's formulation (A/Panama, A/Caledonia and B/Hong Kong). Without informing the public that the flu vaccine did not contain the strain of flu causing severe flu that season, the CDC heavily publicized child flu deaths in the fall of 2003 and Americans stood in long lines that fall and winter to get flu vaccine, which caused a vaccine shortage and subsequent CDC-recommended rationing of flu vaccine supplies.
The FDA stated that "between October 2003 and early January 2004, the deaths of 93 children younger than 18 had been reported to the CDC, according to preliminary data" and eventually the CDC would state that 152 flu related deaths occurred in children younger than 18 that year.
This year, the CDC is wisely admitting that this year's influenza vaccine does not match the circulating strains and is advising common sense strategies for prevention and management of flu, such as hand-washing.
Those who are suffering with an especially nasty bout with the flu this year can take comfort in the fact that natural experience with type A or type B influenza will produce immunological memory that will help minimize the risk of a severe case of that same strain of influenza when it circulates in the future. In fact, pandemic flu planners are counting on the superior, longer lasting cell mediated immunity of those Americans, who have actually recovered from influenza infection in the past, because drug companies won't be able to produce pandemic flu vaccine fast enough to provide doses for everyone for up to a year after the pandemic begins.
Many Americans are taking steps to deal with influenza or flu-like illnesses by enhancing the functioning of the immune system through diet, exercise and other positive lifestyle and health care changes. And if they do get the flu, they are taking a common sense approach. To prevent and treat influenza or flu-like illness that does not involve a fever over 103 F, pneumonia or serious complications which may require special medical intervention, here are a few non-toxic suggestions:
1. Wash your hands frequently.
2. Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
3. If you are sick, avoid close contact with those who are well.
4. Cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze.
5. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
6. Get adequate sleep.
7. Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially foods containing vitamin C (such as citrus fruits) and vitamins A and D (such as cod liver oil) and spend a few minutes a day in sunlight to help your body make and store vitamin D.
8. Exercise regularly when you are well.
9. Lower stress.
10. Consider including holistic alternatives in your wellness or healing plan, such as chiropractic adjustments, homeopathic and naturopathic remedies, acupuncture and other health care options.
U.S. expresses concern about vaccine as flu cases up
February 8, 2008
by Will Dunham
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