Doc Jess’ Health e-newsletter
Health e-newsletter: Flu Edition
The Coming Flu Pandemic, And What YOU Can
Every year, America faces “flu things: the specific strain or When suggestions for preven-
season”. Vaccines arrive in strains of that year’s flu, and tion and other action are made
October, and usually the dis- your ability to be a “healthy in this paper, they are colour- Health e-newsletter
ease starts up soon after, and coded. Things in green are
host” for the disease.
doesn’t dissipate until March. things you should do. I don’t
There is lots of information on October 2005
“Flu” is a disease that causes care how tough you think you
flu: some too scientific for
fever, body aches, and assaults are, or how strong you think
Volume 1, Number 10
most people, some true, some
on the respiratory and your genes are, just do it! Yellow
urban myth. I have endeavored
digestive systems of the body. sections are things that you can
to tell you what you need to
If you’ve ever had the flu, you consider, and discussions are
know: Avian flu is likely coming,
know that you can barely raise included to help you make your
likekly not this year, There is
your head, your joints ache, decision. Anything in red is only
no vaccine yet, there are only
you throw up, your head hurts, for the truly neurotic: although
limited supplies of drugs. But
you cough…it is all pretty ugly. I’m pretty sure they are the
holistic health has some ideas,
But if you are reading this and only things to offer close to
and they are presented in this
remember ever having these 100% protection, they are not a
newsletter. It is written in
symptoms, you’re lucky: you good way to live.
simple terms because, as my
lived through it. Not everyone
daddy always said, if you can’t
explain something simply, you
How bad the symptoms of the don’t actually understand your
disease are depend on two subject matter.
What is flu?
“Flu” is actually influenza a runs its course in 7 days if you virulent strains of disease so
virus caused by different treat it or one week if you do deadly is the leap from animals
strains of the disease. Every nothing. HIV is much harder to to humans. The 1918 flu
year, vaccine researchers in- spread, but is usually fatal. jumped from birds, HIV Inside this issue:
vestigate which strains will be This conventional wisdom jumped from monkeys. The
the most likely cause, and build inherently assumes the idea of fear with the current Avian flu
a vaccine to fight those “resistance.” If you’ve had a is that it will jump to humans. Flu Transmission 2
strains. You may remember disease, and your body fights it In simple terms: currently
hearing over the years about successfully, you build up a there have been 116 confirmed
“Swine flu” and “Hong Kong flu” certain amount of resistance resolved cases of Avian flu in Flu Vaccines 2
and now, “Avian flu”. The and can usually fight it off Asia. These cases have involved
common names relate to the successfully if you are exposed people who live in the same
strains which have scientific to it at a later date. We will house with chickens, and who Flu Prevention 3
names like H5 or A1, etc. Some come back to this idea of directly contracted the dis-
strains are more virulent than resistance later. The point ease from the birds. The dis-
Hand Washing 3
others: that is they either here is that there are certain ease is not yet transmissible
flu strains for which no one has from human to human. In its
cause more serious symptoms.
any resistance. Thus the body’s current form, it has a
Conventional wisdom about Tamiflu 4
natural defenses have no idea morbidity rate of 50%. If the
communicable disease says how to fight it. That gives rise disease mutates, as many
that the more virulent a dis- to something like the 1918 flu researchers suspect, the Dog Flu 4
ease, the harder it is to pandemic, which killed 50 morbidity rate will go down,
spread, but the less severe it million people worldwide. but the infection rate will go
is. So, for example, a cold is up. Antibiotics 5
easily spread, but generally What makes these more
How is flu transmitted?
Human to human flu is spread by direct Therefore, if you want to be completely sure
contact (eg sneezing, coughing), close that you prevent contracting the flu, move to
contact, or sharing things on which flu a place with a population density of less than
lives (e.g. an infected person’s recently 5 people per square mile, live alone, grow your
used toothbrush, still damp from previous own food, and never have contact with other
use.) That sneezing and coughing method humans. You won’t get the flu, but you will
is the most common. likely die of loneliness or insanity. This idea is
effective but stupid.
Should I get a flu vaccine? If I get the vaccine am I protected?
In general, getting a flu vaccine is a good at increased risk for serious flu complica- You need to
idea if you fall into a “high risk group”. tions, vaccination is recommended for all consider whether
That is, anyone who would be especially persons aged 50 to 64. you are at high
susceptible to flu, or who would lack the risk for
3.) People who can transmit flu to others
ability to fight it. The CDC defines the contracting flu,
at high risk for complications. Any person how strong your
risk groups as:
in close contact with someone in a high- immune system
1.) People at high risk for complications risk group (see above) should get vacci- is, and how well you can fight the vaccine
from the flu: nated. This includes all health-care work- itself. This year, there is a low probability
ers, household contacts and out-of-home that the Avian flu will reach our shores,
* People 65 years and older; caregivers of children 6 to 23 months of and even if it does, the current vaccine is
age, and close contacts of people 65 years
* People who live in nursing homes and not effective against it. All vaccines have
other long-term care facilities that house downsides: they dissipate your body’s abil-
those with long-term illnesses; ity to fight on its own.
However, the CDC also points out that
there are people who should never be vac-
* Adults and children 6 months and older I’m a holist, and therefore not a great fan
cinated. These groups include:
with chronic heart or lung conditions, of vaccines. My personal rule of thumb is
including asthma; that you get the vaccine if the disease
• People who have a severe allergy to
threat is greater than the vaccine threat.
* Adults and children 6 months and older So, I’m in favour of polio vaccines: the
who needed regular medical care or were • People who have had a severe reaction large push to vaccinate all against polio in
in a hospital during the previous year to an influenza vaccination in the past. the 1960’s did a great deal to coming close
because of a metabolic disease (like diabe- to eradicating the disease, and the
tes), chronic kidney disease, or weakened • People who developed Guillain-Barré vaccines were long-lasting. I feel the same
immune system (including immune system syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting way about the smallpox vaccine. Deadly
problems caused by medicines or by an influenza vaccine previously. disease, good to prevent. I’m less in favour
infection with human immunodeficiency of the measles vaccine: I think that for
• Children less than 6 months of age
virus [HIV/AIDS]); most kids, the lifetime protection
(influenza vaccine is not approved for use
acquired from having had the disease
* Children 6 months to 18 years of age in this age group).
beats the 15 years of vaccine protection.
who are on long-term aspirin therapy.
People who have a moderate or severe There have been more than a few cases of
(Children given aspirin while they have
illness with a fever should wait to get vac- college students getting and passing
influenza are at risk of Reye syndrome.);
cinated until their symptoms lessen. measles, (especially during the 1989—1991
* Women who will be pregnant during the measles epidemic) despite early-childhood
The way vaccines work is that they give a
influenza season; vaccination, and with a much higher
little bit of disease to you (we’ll skip the complication rate than when unvaccinated
* All children 6 to 23 months of age; discussion on live vs attenuated vaccines) elementary school kids contract measles.
and then your body develops antibodies to Granted, measles can cause blindness and
* People with any condition that can the minor assault on your immune system, death, and is a much greater threat in
compromise respiratory function or the the theory is that when the “real” disease Africa than the U.S.
handling of respiratory secretions (that is, hits, you will have the antibodies to fight
a condition that makes it hard to breathe it. This is a nice theory if certain So if you are fundamentally healthy and
or swallow, such as brain injury or disease, conditions are met: first, that the strains want the flu vaccine this year, you can
spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or in the vaccine are the same strains as ac- probably take it with no bad effects, and
other nerve or muscle disorders.) tually appear as disease; and second, that it will probably work. Remember that how
your body is strong enough to develop the much protection your body develops from
2.) People 50 to 64 years of age. Because
antibodies. the vaccine is dependent on how healthy
nearly one-third of people 50 to 64 years
your immune system is when you get the
of age in the United States have one or
more medical conditions that place them But should YOU get a vaccine? Maybe.
Page 2 Doc Jess’ Health e-newsletter
What to do to prevent flu
First and foremost, get healthy. There is am less concerned with watermelon. Try
all high fructose corn syrup and all
a reason some people “catch” more organic fruits and vegetables: the taste
glutamates. These things are pure poison
illnesses than others, and have a harder difference is remarkable! One caveat: if
and serve no purpose except to increase
time fighting them. They are “healthy the produce is transported over a long
profits of food manufacturers. These
hosts” for disease. And even if you are distance, you are better with locally-grown
things were born out of a way for food
predominantly healthy, though, do NOT be conventional produce in season, which has
producers to do things on the cheap.
complacent about the coming pandemic – not been exposed to the pollution from
Upcoming articles in this newsletter will
you need to be even more healthy. being transported cross country or from a
spell out how bad these things are, and
good ways to increase the health of your
Second learn how to wash your hands, and
diet. But for now: ban them as best you
then wash them, and often. Fourth, decrease your phthalate
can. Learn to READ food labels: if it says
consumption as much as possible. These
“no trans fats” but still says
Third, if you DO get sick, stay home. One are poisons formed when plastics are
“hydrogenated” “partially hydrogenated”
of the best ways to prevent disease is to heated. Therefore, if you eat frozen
or “fractionated” in the ingredients, the
get sick people to stay away from healthy foods and cook them in a microwave,
manufacturer is lying about what is in the
people. transfer them to a glass dish before you
product, but is doing so completely legally.
The best way to get healthy is to eat The Federal Government of the U.S.
healthy. Eating healthy is tough in modern allows manufacturers to include up to half Fifth, get outside every day for at least
American society: many things presented a gram of trans fats in each serving legally 20 minutes. Yes, I know it’s raining, it’s too
to us is processed, wrapped in plastic, and still print “no trans fats” on the hot or too cold, and you’re too busy. Walk
drugged, and filled with poisons. Generally, package. There will be an upcoming article the dog, walk with a friend, just get some
this is done in the name of convenience. on how and why this happened. If you fresh air!
We are busy, time-pressed, and hardly think that “half a gram per serving” is not
anyone cooks from scratch anymore, much Sixth, exercise. You know it’s good for
such a bad thing, check what constitutes a
less grows their own food. you!
“serving size” - generally is a quarter to a
half of what you really eat. Start easy:
But there are things you can do. First, cut And finally: drink at least 64 ounces of
check it out on a bag of potato chips.
all chemicals out of what you eat. If you pure water a day, and aim for at least
can’t do that, aim for 90%. “Chemicals” eight hours of sleep a night.
Third, eat organic whenever possible. My
include things like fake sugars, fake fats, personal rule of thumb is to insure that
Are there other things? Sure—but these
colourings, flavourings, and preservatives. the more liquid and unprotected
are a great start.
A good rule of thumb is that if something something is, the more critical that it be
didn’t exist before 1980, don’t eat it. organic. Therefore, I only drink organic
milk, and eat organic berries and grapes. I
Second, ban from your diet all trans fats,
Hand-Washing: How and When
use more: your palms or your fingers? Do cabinet, I shook hands, I opened doors, I
How should I wash my hands?
you use your palms on a keyboard? A phone? just don’t know where my hands have
Most people wash their hands incorrectly. To pick things up? been. However, I DO know where my
They put a little anti-bacterial soap on Johnson has been, and I want to keep him
Second, use warm water: too hot will scald,
their palms, rub them together, and let safe.”
and cold isn’t as good. Think “warm and
some cold water pour over them, and then
Funny, but perhaps a little extreme. Wash
dry most of the moisture with a paper
your hands when your mother told you to
Finally, dry your hands thoroughly. Disease wash up when you were a kid: after you
loves warm, moist, dark – disease hates dry
First get rid of that use the bathroom, before you eat, after
anti-bacterial soap. you sneeze and cough, whenever they are
It is a bad idea. Anti- dirty.
When should I wash my hands?
bacterial soap will kill
It doesn’t pay to be like the TV character
the harmless skin Years ago, there was a guy named Irv
Adrian Monk and use a moist towelette
staph on your hands, Homer who had a call in show on then talk
every time you shake hands. First, it is a
but won’t do a damn radio WWDB in Philadelphia. His topic one
sign of unnecessary compulsion, and more
thing for viruses. day was what percentage of people washed
important, your skin is there to protect
And your chances of their hands after using the bathroom – Irv
you. Unless you’ve got open cuts and sores
being infected with a had sent watchers to 30th Street Station
on your hands, common germs won’t hurt
virus are much higher than your chances to count. And then came the calls…..the last
your hands—germs infect most commonly
of getting a communicable bacterial caller said “You know, Irv, most people wash
through the mouth and nose. So wash your
illness. Anti-bacterial soap has more down- their hands after they use the bathroom,
hands when you should, but not constantly.
sides than upsides. Use regular soap. but I wash my hands when I walk in. That’s
because I never know where my hands have
Wash your fingers: the fronts, the backs,
been: I used the phone, I used the file
and the nails. Think about it – what do you
Doc Jess’ Health e-newsletter Page 3
To Tamiflu or Not to Tamiflu
stockpiling Tamiflu and Relenza NOW in
Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) is the there is no doubt you should take an
most popular antiviral drug with proven anti-viral. case they get the flu. Is that a good idea?
success in treating flu, including the avian Politically, no: if you don’t get the flu, or if
According to the CDC, every year in the
flu. The second drug is Relenza it is mild, given the limited supplies, drugs
United States, on average:
(zanamivir). Unfortunately, as reported may not be available for those who really
by the BBC in October, patients are need them. But, if you are someone who
* 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu
already showing resistance to Tamiflu in would need it, I don’t know what to tell
* more than 200,000 people are hospital-
the treatment of Avian flu. Still, used you. I understand fear.
ized from flu complications
separately or together, they are the best
The best advice I can give you is to get
treatment so far for Avian flu.
* about 36,000 people die from flu healthy, and bug your Senators and
Some people take Tamiflu for “standard” Representatives to support the legislation
Weigh your personal situation in deciding
flu. And yes, if taken within the first due to hit the Senate floor next week
what to do. Remember when looking at
couple days of infection, it will make the proposing $1 billion in incentives and
these numbers that there are about 300
flu much more mild. Here is the question: longer patents for American drug
million people in the U.S.
since many strains of flu are similar, if you companies that make flu vaccines and
are fundamentally healthy, wouldn’t anti-virals. Even before it has been
Globally, governments should stockpile
fighting off a flu grant you some immunity submitted and given a bill number, generic
anti-virals in case of mass infection, say,
for similar flus down the line? Of course drug manufacturers and insurance
an infection rate of more like 40% or
the flip side of that is that flu CAN kill. If companies are against it. Tell your reps
more. Our government has been lax in
you are already compromised in some way, you are for it, and they should be, too.
doing so, leading to some individuals
What if I get the flu this year?
First, realize that Avian flu is not here disposed of. If you do not have a pressure, etc., check with your doctor
yet. It may be here eventually, but it is dishwasher, only use disposables. about whether dosages should be altered.
not here yet, and has not jumped species.
Try to drink tea, especially white or green Avoid smoking and alcohol.
It appears that Avian flu is being carried
tea. Also drink juices and water. If you
west from Asia by migrating birds. The If you have real breathing problems, not a
cannot hold down liquids, at least suck on
Atlantic is one big ocean for a sick bird to bad cough, but you cannot catch your
ice chips to help prevent dehydration.
cross. Therefore, above all, don’t panic. breath, or acquire an asthmatic wheeze
Sleep as much as possible. Take aspirin you never had before, call your doctor to
First thing you should do is stay home
(NOT acetaminophen, Motrin, etc.) aspirin. see if hospitalization is warranted. Also
while ill. Get into bed, stay there, and
Do not take aspirin if you are allergic to it, call your doctor if you have a fever of
realize you are going to feel lousy for a
above 102oF for more than a day.
or have had a reaction to it in the past.
few days. Make everyone else in your
Do not give aspirin to those under age 18
household who is not sick wear latex As you begin to feel better, sleep more,
unless under the advice of your personal
gloves and masks when they interact with catch up on daytime TV, drink more
physician to avoid Reye’s Syndrome.
you. Make sure that the containers from liquids, followed by fruits, and crackers.
anything you eat or drink is either If you take any chronic condition medicine Stay home until you feel 100%.
immediately placed in the dishwasher, or for things like diabetes, high blood
The dog flu currently in the news was, cough that initially sounds like kennel
until recently, a disease of horses only, cough, loss of appetite and lethargy.
but it has jumped species, and has
Your best protection is to keep your dog
infected dogs, as of this writing, in New
away from other dogs, to see your vet if
York, Massachusetts, Florida and
symptoms appear, and to improve your
California. It is currently spreading
dog’s immune s ys tem NOW b y
through kennels, horse tracks and places
feeding him/her with a high-nutrient,
where dogs gather (like dog parks, day
natural foods diet and human grade
cares and dog spas). It is spread the same
supplements. Future articles will spell
way other flus are spread: direct dog to
these habits out in greater detail.
dog contact of coughs and sneezes, and
direct mouth-to-mouth contact. This dis- The photo is of my canine companion, the
ease is highly contagious between dogs Precious, Priceless, Princess,
since there is no natural immunity. Munchkin Olivia the Wonder Dog, who had
just destroyed a squeak toy in a land-
There is a low morbidity rate of 5%.
speed record of 7 seconds.
Symptoms include a low grade fever, a
Page 4 Doc Jess’ Health e-newsletter
People can fall ill with two kinds of things: The second problem is that when you let a yeast infection after the bacterial
infectious diseases, which can be drug fight FOR you, your immune system condition is resolved. As an aside, many
bacterial, viral or fungal; as compared to is weakened a bit, leaving you less able to people have systemic yeast infections
fight other things. There is no doubt that
conditions, which are not caused by germs. they don’t realize they have.
there are right times and situations where
Examples of bacterial infections are As relates to flu: antibiotics will have no
antibiotics are called for, but too many
things like strep throat, salmonella, effect on the flu virus. If you pick up a
people take antibiotics for non-bacterial
secondary infection from the flu, then
anthrax, e-coli, and toxic shock syndrome. conditions. This means when they need an
Examples of viral diseases are colds and antibiotics may be called before, but not
antibiotic for a bacterial infection, it may
flu., herpes and chicken pox. (Note: viral before.
not work, and the person is weakened by
diseases also include retroviral disease an inability to fight off simpler infections. REMEMBER:
such as HIV.) Fungal diseases include
ANTIOBIOTICS ARE ONLY
things like toenail fungus, aspergillosis and The most common example of this is “sinus
candida (yeast infections.) Conditions infection.” Most sinus infections are viral
include things like epilepsy, diabetes, and not bacterial. (Yes, even those with the
AND SHOULD BE TAKEN
high blood pressure. infamous “green snot.”) But people get
IF AND ONLY IF YOU KNOW
antibiotics: first because they insist on
Some diseases can have varied causes: THE DISEASE IS BACTERIAL
them, second because doctors are often
pneumonia, for example, can be bacterial, AND SPECIFICALLY WHAT
willing to prescribe drugs. Often, the
viral or fungal, or even a combination. KIND OF BACTERIAL INFECTION
patient feels better, but the sinus
THE ILLNESS IS.
infection comes back again and again,
Antibiotics were created to cure bacterial
because it was neither cured nor allowed
infections, and, at first, did a great job of
to run its course.
doing so. Many people in the 1950’s and
1960’s lived because of their existence. Different antibiotics treat different
But like most things, antibiotics also have types of bacteria—that is why the only If you felt the information in this
a downside. First, bacteria are “smart” or time to take one is when you have been
newsletter was worthwhile, feel
at least have enough internal drive for self cultured and know exactly for what the
-preservation to be able to mutate, thus free to pass it on to a friend or
treatment is being used.
rendering the original antibiotics ineffec- family member. If they would like
tive. And so more, stronger drugs are cre- If you do take antibiotics, know that they
future issues, have them drop a
ated. This causes even stronger bugs, and destroy good bugs as well as bad ones. The
note to firstname.lastname@example.org
has led to the hospital-borne staph infec- simplest example of this is that often
tions that are resilient to all known antibi- women who take antibiotics without either
yogurt or lactobacillus often end up with a
relief, If I have a bad cold, and cannot My dog gets no vaccines other than
Dear Doc Jess -
sleep, I have been known to down some rabies, as there are rabid animals found
What is your personal rule for taking cherry Ny-Quil. I know it doesn’t change annually in the woods behind our house.
drugs? Do you take vitamins? And what the course of the cold, but it helps me She gets monthly heartworm pills as
about that dog you love so much? sleep. I prefer to prevent colds, and if I the cure for heartworm is arsenic, and
get one treat them with zinc, vitamins even that doesn’t always work. She, too,
and juices, but sometimes... takes vitamins and supplements.
I take drugs when the downside of the
I only took flu vaccines when I was
drug is less than the downside of the
training several hundred people a week
disease. So, have I ever taken
in buildings with no outside ventilation,
antibiotics? Sure: two courses for
and traveling constantly on airplanes,
Lyme Disease, after it was cultured and
otherwise known in winter as a sardine
titrated, and we were sure it was Lyme.
can filled with 230 coughing and
Also, I was given antibiotics as a kid
sneezing people. Those years, there was
for Scarlet Fever, which prevented it Have a question you’d
just too high a risk by being surrounded
from turning into Rheumatic Fever, and
like to see answered?
by sick people in closed spaces five days
likely saved my life. Have I taken
a week. E-mail it to
Tamiflu? No, I have only had the flu
once, in college, and it was misery. If I email@example.com
Depending on the time of year, I take
get the flu now, I wouldn’t take Tamiflu between 10 and 20 different types of
unless I knew for sure that it was the vitamins, minerals, herbs and supple-
bird flu, understanding that by the ments every day, including a great multi-
time the tests were back, it could be vitamin. But what is right for me is not
too late for the drug to be effective. right for everyone: regimens need to be
chosen on an individual basis.
I also rarely take drugs for symptom
Doc Jess’ Health e-newsletter Page 5