erSeveral media sources are portraying this season’s flu as the next “1918” referring to the Spanish Flu that killed over 2 million people in a single year. On 1/9/13, Boston declared a public health emergency because 4 elderly patients died and were confirmed to have the H3N2 strain of flu. Boston has so far 700 confirmed flu cases, which is high considering that there were only 70 last season. Another common fact being spread quickly is that so far 18 children have died this flu season. While this is regrettable, there are some important facts about the flu, especially flu statistics, and the flu shot that everyone should know.

When it comes to flu statistics, there is a powerful vacuum of information. The primary source of seasonal flu statistics is the CDC and even they admit that, “CDC does not know exactly how many people die from seasonal flu each year” because many diseases also manifest with flu-like symptoms, and because deaths that were actually caused by the flu can appear to be another disease, and also because states are not required to report adult deaths from flu to the CDC, and host of other factors that make determining the real number of people that actually die from the flu nearly impossible.

The CDC does not report a single-number estimate of flu deaths for each season, but rather gives a possible range that is based on a system of guesses, for lack of a better word. They guess that about 8% of pneumonia deaths and 2% of respiratory/circulatory deaths are influenza related, and those numbers combined with other extrapolated estimate data are added together and then a possible error margin is worked in then the answer is given as a possible range. For example, for the 2006-2007 flu season, anywhere from 3,348--6,535 people died from influenza, or at least that the best guess of the CDC.

lost and confusedThe CDC reports that between 1976 and 2006, the range of influenza-related deaths was anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000. The higher years occurred when the predominant form of the virus was the H3N2 strain where in some cases is killed twice as many people as the previous season when it was H1N1 or another strain. Also, the majority of the deaths occur in those individuals who are over the age of 65. In the 06-07 season, anywhere from anywhere from 2,973--5,176 of the possible 3,348—6,535 deaths occurred in those over the age of 65. That’s nearly all of them!

What’s really occurring this season is that an overwhelming number of people with “flu-like symptoms” are crowding in the hospitals and emergency rooms and in some areas the medical facilities do not have the resources to test and process all of them. This information is then forwarded as a “flu-epidemic” in the national media, urging people to get flu shots. Is getting a flu shot really the answer?

There are really only two reasons to encourage people to get flu shots on a national level. If it protects individuals from contracting the virus, or if it limits contagion and protects other people from acquiring it then it makes sense to promote flu shots. But do flu shots really accomplish this task? Sure enough, there are actually a number of studies that have analyzed the efficacy of flu shots.

The magic number that is often tossed around is “60%”. Flu shots are 60% effective. For example, in a local news article published 1/10/13 about the current “flu epidemic” says, “Health officials are analyzing the vaccine's effectiveness, but early indications are that about 60 percent of all vaccinated people have been protected from the flu. That's in line with how effective flu vaccines have been in other years.” We already know that there is an immense vacuum of accurate statistics for how many people die from the flu that it would be important to discover where this 60% figure comes from and if there is any merit to it.

In a study published in The Lancet Journal published Oct. 26th, 2011, “Efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines: a systematic review and meta-analysis” They compared 13,095 non-vaccinated adults against a group of adults who were given a flu vaccine that is supposed to immunize against three common strains of the virus. If the flu shot is 60% effective, the results should show that over half of the immunized adults shouldn’t come down with the flu.

Out of the vaccinated group, 98.8% of them got the flu. The group that wasn’t vaccinated, 97.3% of them got the flu. That’s a difference of 1.5%. So where does “60%” come from? Well, if you compare the 2.7% in the non-vaccinated group with the 1.2% in the vaccinated group, 1.2 is 55.6% of 2.7 so perhaps that is what they meant?

What this study essentially proves is that if 100 people are at risk of getting the flu, and you vaccinate all of them, one and a half people will have been saved from the disease. In other words, spending $30 dollars on a flu shot will improve your chances of avoiding the flu by 1.5%.

flu shotBy saying that everyone must be vaccinated and that 60% of Americans will be saved by flu shots is a complete falsehood. The people who are at most risk of dying from the flu are individuals who are age 65 or older, and anyone of any age who has weakened immune systems, or an existing chronic illness that could be exacerbated or complicated by an influenza infection. These people have the highest mortality risk, and even then, will the flu shot really protect them when 98% of those who get vaccinated get the flu anyway?

Why is the flu shot so ineffective? Most likely because the flu shot only contains the virus strains that have already been discovered and cultured and are similar to what the vaccine manufacturers expect to be the type of flu that will hit that season. It cannot protect you from new strains, mutated forms, or other viruses that look like the flu.

So what should you do if there is a flu, cold virus, or other type of virus going around and you want to protect yourself? There are plenty of natural immune boosting substances that are profoundly more effective than the flu shot. Vitamin C, vitamin D, arabinoxylane, humic acid, shitaki mushroom, and dozens more nutrients are all scientifically proven to be more effective at improving your immune system’s ability to prevent infections and/or reduce the severity and down-time if you do catch the bug.

If you feel yourself coming down with the flu or a flu-like virus, another powerful remedy is intravenous vitamin c, a service we have offered at the center for decades for both prevention and treatment of colds, flus, and other infections and it is very safe. Animals produce copious amounts of vitamin C when they become ill, but we humans lack this ability and must obtain this natural immune boosting substance from external sources.

Proper diet is also very important. Avoiding foods that impair your immune system and consuming those that empower it is a common sense approach to general health, but also helps prevent sickness and infection. Foods like dairy, sugar, coffee, as well as common allergenic foods like peanuts, chocolate, and wheat can all reduce your body's immune system and make it harder for it to both prevent infection, or get rid of it once infected. Fresh vegetables, especially mushrooms improve your immune system performance. Citrus fruits, including oranges, are actually pro-inflammatory, and consuming these fruits will make it more difficult for your body to deal with a viral infection.

hygieneIt is also very important to practice good hygiene, especially if you are around others who might have the flu or other virus. Washing your hands before eating, disinfecting frequently contacted surfaces, such as doorknobs, and in a shared work environment it would be wise to disinfect shared equipment like phones, keyboards, etc. in order to reduce contamination.

All in all, what it all boils down to is that even if a particularly strong strain of flu comes around, you are much better off, staying hygienic, eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of water, and taking natural immune boosters, than getting a flu shot.