Understanding Influenza

In recent days, we have heard many comparisons of Corona virus/COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza virus. It is important to first understand what we do and do not know in regard to Influenza. Influenza is an infectious disease, often mistaken for the “common cold”. Influenza, or the “flu”, is an illness of the Respiratory System. It was isolated and identified in 1933. Influenza’s first symptoms generally include a sudden onset headache,  accompanied by a general feeling of weakness, feverishness or chills, and is quickly followed by the common symptoms of fever of 101 or higher, short dry cough, sore throat, sneezing, runny nasal discharge, painful, watery eyes and sore, achy muscles, especially of the back and extremities and sometimes aching in the joints. It is often, also accompanied by various levels of exhaustion and weakness.

The average duration of influenza symptoms is approximately one week, but may last longer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is believed that healthy adults who are infected with the virus, can spread it to others for up to 4 days prior to the appearance of symptoms and 5 to 7 days following the appearance of symptoms.  Children, as well as individuals with compromised immune systems, may be able to pass the virus to others for an even longer period of time. The CDC also says, that people can carry the influenza virus, and never develop symptoms, yet still spread the disease.(1 ) This would mean the virus is readily being spread by people who don’t even realize they are sick or carrying a contagious disease. However, according to the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI, “A better understanding of transmission dynamics is essential in influenza pandemic planning. If a substantial proportion of transmissions were to occur during the presymptomatic phase or from asymptomatic individuals, then infection control measures such as contact tracing and quarantine of exposures would be of limited value. Infectiousness has been inferred based on the presence of influenza in the upper respiratory tract rather than from transmission experiments. Although asymptomatic individuals may shed influenza virus, studies have not determined if such people effectively transmit influenza.” Furthermore, based on a systematic review of available literature and published studies describing the relationship between viral shedding and disease transmission, “ scant, if any, evidence that asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals play an important role in influenza transmission. As such, recent articles concerning pandemic planning, some using transmission modeling, may have overestimated the effect of presymptomatic or asymptomatic influenza transmission. (2)

According to information gathered from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, Influenza is spread person to person. They claim that most experts believe that Influenza viruses are spread for the most part, by droplets expelled when people who are carrying an Influenza virus, cough, sneeze or talk. That these droplets then land in the mouths or noses of other people, who are up to 6 feet away, and are potentially inhaled into their lungs.(3) However, according to newly published research from January 2018, on the (PNAS) Proceedings Of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, scientists have revealed  coughing and sneezing of infected individuals, is of little significance in the spread of the Influenza virus. Influenza infects the air upon exhale of infected individuals. Sneezing did not show a significantly greater presence of viral RNA.(4) These findings are a strong indication that there are basic preventative measures that can be taken to keep Influenza spread at a minimum, such as ventilation in offices, workplaces and schools as well as other public places like buses and subway cars. The other indication would be the need for those that show symptoms, to stay home from work, school and other events to prevent viral spread.

The occurrence of influenza virus in our communities is so common, that we readily expect a seasonal flu infection. There is much talk in the media and advertising regarding flu season preparedness. The illness ranges from mild to severe and can even end in death. According to the World Health Organization, Influenza results in seasonal epidemics, causing approximately 3 to 5 million severe cases of illness. According to the WHO, these cases end in approximately 290, 000 to 650,000 respiratory deaths world wide.(5) However, according to a page on the website, of the Office of the Assistant Secretary For Planning and Evaluation under the US Department of Health and Human Services, “US data on influenza deaths are false and misleading”. Pediatrician, Dr. Kenneth Stoller writes, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges a difference between flu death and flu associated death yet uses the terms interchangeably.” He goes on to explain that, “according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), “influenza and pneumonia” took 62, 034 lives in 2001—61, 777 of which were attributed to pneumonia and 257 to flu, and in only 18 cases was flu virus positively identified.(6) These stats are presented in a skewed and misleading way, which propagates unnecessary fear. This clearly not only affects the ability for public health officials to honestly discuss realistic and honest public health policy, but it forces citizens into a position of making decisions regarding their own, and their family’s health, without the right of informed consent.

Influenza was thought for many years to be caused by bacteria.  After much research, in 1933 a virus was isolated and identified by 3 English scientist, by the names, Smith, Andrews and Laidlaw. Although this was a significant breakthrough in discovery, the scientist quickly realized, as is often the case with science, they had uncovered more mystery than anything else. There are four categories of influenza virus, known to infect humans. These include types A B & C. Understanding that an infectious disease is caused by a virus versus a bacteria aids in the understanding of the disease origin, it’s manifestation, spread, measures for containment and approach to combating. 

Despite the fact that many different Influenza vaccines have been tried and subsequently failed, it appears to be the only approach that Allopathic medicine practitioners, as well as our overseeing government, in the form of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Health and Human Services Department and other state and local governmental health organizations, are willing to invest in. It is known that to prevent the greatest cause of of influenza epidemic would require the separation of swine from fowl in agricultural practices. This is indicated by a large number of the population becoming infected most commonly in the winter months, and even pandemics; indicated by a worldwide scale of infected individuals/ communities, outside of winter months. Unfortunately these practices are not being put into place in Asian countries, where most, if not all, epidemics and pandemics of human influenza in the 20th century have originated from.  Rather than educating the public on safe, preventative measures, the government willingly puts the people at risk pushing vaccinations, which offer more risk than benefit, without the right of informed consent and leaves them fearful and thus, more susceptible to illness. 

From a Naturopathic perspective, an ounce of prevention is the best cure, in the way of self-care and nutrition, leading to a strong immune system. Interestingly, for breastfeeding babies and children, rather than be taken off breast milk during a mother’s Influenza illness, they should be nursed more. When illness does present there are many effective remedies in the way of Nutrition, supplementation like Vitamin C,(7) proper hydration, Homeopathic remedies, herbal detox, essential oils, reflexology, bodywork, Healing Touch and rest, among others.  

1.  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm

2. “Does Influenza Transmission Occur from Asymptomatic … – NCBI.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2646474/. Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.

3.  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm

4.  https://www.pnas.org/content/115/5/1081

5.  https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)

6.  https://aspe.hhs.gov/cdc-%E2%80%94-influenza-deaths-request-correction-rfc

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10543583/?fbclid=IwAR2j_h78FxZUQkC_4kB5_X_U7ZFWWiMsVlh_5blZ-yI53t7-dwew9yofUR8

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