Beating The Flu

Tania MacWilliam
Health & Wellness

June 17, 2011

*PDF of ezine available here (pages 16/17)

Influenza, or flu, is responsible for the deaths of 51 Canadians and the hospitalization of 703 Canadians, since the beginning of this flu season, according to Public Health Agency of Canada’s FluWatch.

The number of specimens which came back positive for Influenza A (subtype not specified) in Canada has jumped from just over 500 in the last two weeks of 2010 to nearly 1,700 in the second week of 2011, according to the World Heath Organization’s FluNet.

In past years, Halton region has vaccinated 15,000 to 20,000 people in their 30 to 35 flu clinics each season, says Dr. Bob Nosal, Halton Region Medical Officer of Health.

However, this flu season, clinics have only given out 12,000 doses of the flu vaccine.

The number of vaccines given to hospitals, family physicians and long term care homes this year was about 107,000, compared to about 147,000 in previous years, says Nosal.

“Bottom line is less people are being immunized this year,” says Nosal.

“I think one of the reasons for that is because what happened last year with swine flu and some of the confusing messages that occurred,” says Nosal. “If you recall, they talked about a pandemic.”

“Many people are thinking, ‘hey it wasn’t as bad as everybody said,’ and that may also be contributing to why people aren’t getting the flu shot this year,” says Nosal.

Skeptics need only look at the statistics to see how this season’s flu is affecting people. If you are in a high risk group, deciding to forgo the vaccine could mean death.

Those belonging to high risk groups can greatly benefit from the added protection of vaccines, says Nosal. People with underlying chronic diseases like heart, lung, or kidney disease should be vaccinat- ed. So should children under the age

of five, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with diabetes should also be immunized.

It is never too late to get the flu shot, says Nosal. While there is still a lot of flu activity, we are probably past the peak.

“If we haven’t passed it yet, we will be passing it very shortly,” says Nosal.

There are many things we can do to avoid spreading influenza, says Nosal. One of the most effective is coughing or sneezing into your shoulder or upper arm.

The most important message Nosal wants to share is that if you are sick, stay home.

“Do not go out, or go to school, or go to work. If you are feverish, with flu-like symptoms, and really feeling lousy, you should be staying home so you don’t spread it,” he says.

If the thought of a needle prick sends you looking for an alternative to vaccine, you aren’t alone. Many people are turning to natural therapies for the prevention and treatment of illness.

A consumer survey, reported to Health Canada in 2005, showed that 71 per cent of Canadians take natural health products regularly.

Nosal doesn’t recommend alternative therapies for the prevention of influenza.

“They haven’t been shown to be effective,” says Nosal. “By far the most effective [prevention] is the flu shot.”

Despite the criticism that homeopathic medicine sometimes receives, there are still people who turn to Naturopathic doctors for health advice.

Patients say they don’t want to be immunized against the flu, they want a more natural approach, says K.C. Bateman, naturopathic Doctor.

While Bateman doesn’t suggest his patients not get the flu shot, he supports his patients seeking an alternative to avoiding the flu.

Natural medicine focuses on supporting the immune system, says Bateman, supporting the thymus in particular. The thymus is where T lymphocytes mature. Llymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that fight viruses.

“Things that I often recommend are homeopathic remedies like Muco Coccinum and Oscillococcinum,” says Bateman.

There is research indicating that Muco Coccinum is 85 per cent effective at preventing the flu, he says.

Another recommendation Bateman makes to his patients who are trying to avoid the flu is to take elderberry syrup mixed with some vitamin C powder and a little water.

Don’t rely on any one preven- tative treatment, says Bateman. Choose a combination of things that work for you.

It isn’t only about supplements. Diet is important. Eat real food, he says.

“If you want to keep your immune system strong, say goodbye to sugar,” says Bateman. “No sugar. None at all. Zero. It shuts your immune system off.”

The key message Bateman would like to leave with his patients is to listen to their body.

“Listen to your body when it whispers to you, so you don’t have to listen to it when it screams at you,” says Bateman.

There is one last message that nearly everyone hears during the flu season: Wash your hands.

Clean hands save lives, is the message The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares. The CDC recommends 20 seconds of lathering during hand-washing, mak- ing sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. If you need a timer, try singing Happy Birthday twice.

So before you cross your fingers, and hope for the best, make sure they are clean.

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