Swine Flu: The Next Pandemic?

April 25, 2009  
Filed under Flu

As of this post, as many as 60 people in Mexico have died from swine flu, and possibly as many as 1,000 people in both the U.S. (in the U.S.: California; 7, Texas; 2, Kansas; 2, and possibly 9 in New York) and Mexico have been affected. The WHO (World Health Organization) said today that this flu has “pandemic potential,” and that it may be too late to contain the outbreak. There have been about 3 influenza pandemics during the last 300 years: the 1918 Spanish flu, the Asian Flu in 1957 and the Hong Kong Flu in 1968. According to the latest reports regarding the swine flu outbreak, this one has the POTENTIAL to become the next influenza pandemic.  It’s also been said, according to an influenza expert interviewed on CNN today, that this flu could fizzle out on its own as the strain becomes weaker as its passed along from person to person.

The Associated Press is reporting that the WHO has declared the swine flu outbreak in North America a “public health emergency of international concern.” The decision means countries around the world will be asked to step up reporting and surveillance of the disease. WHO fears the outbreak could spread to other countries and is calling for a coordinated response to contain it… like the economic crisis, this too has “gone global.”

With all the media coverage this epidemic is receiving, nothing has been said as to the over-all health condition of the people who have unfortunately died from swine flu. Where they primarily the sick and elderly, or have other underlying health conditions? Or where they otherwise young and/or healthy? Obviously, many who have this flu are surviving it, no doubt because they have healthy immune systems.

There is no swine flu vaccine right now, however, the CDC is busy formulating one. Sound familiar? It should. We’ve been through this “swine flu with pandemic potential” scenario before, back in 1976, when an Army recruit at Fort Dix was “killed by an influenza not seen since the plague of 1918,” which was later announced as swine flu. That outbreak began President Ford’s (very political) decision for national inoculation against swine flu. A vaccine was quickly manufactured, mass-produced, and was largely untested. The process of inoculating the entire population began. Within days of receiving the vaccine, however, several people who had taken the shot fell seriously ill, and some died from the vaccine. Two months into the “vaccinate every man, woman and child” program began, the government became increasingly concerned about reports of the vaccine touching off neurological problems, especially rare Guillain-Barre syndrome, and suspended the program, — after having inoculated 40 million people… for a flu epidemic that never came.

Swine flu, unlike bird flu, is able to pass from human to human contact. Most cases occur when people come in contact with infected pigs (note that eating pork, cooked to the proper temperature, will not cause swine flu) or contaminated objects. Transmission among humans is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu - by touching something with flu viruses and then touching your mouth or nose, and through coughing or sneezing.

This swine flu and regular flu can have similar symptoms - mostly fever, cough and sore throat, though some people are experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. No vaccine specifically protects against swine flu, and it is unclear how much protection current human flu vaccines might offer.

Mild cases of the flu can be confused with the common cold; however, the flu usually causes a more serious illness. Symptoms of the flu can include coughing, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue and headache. Flu symptoms tend to start suddenly and be accompanied by a high fever.

Alternative Therapies for Flu:
Herbal medicine is a popular treatment for common colds and flu due to their antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anticatarrhal properties. Most commonly recommended by Herbalists are echinacea, goldenseal, licorice, elder, eyebright and elderflower. Some herbs help promote sweating, which helps to cleanse the body. Cayenne, ginger, horseradish, and mustard fall into this category.

In addition to medicinal herbs, nutritional supplements and minerals have the ability to stimulate immune functions and therefore can help the body deal with the flu. One popular supplement for treating colds is zinc, which is an important nutrient for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Maintaining a healthy immune system is generally considered to be the key to avoiding the flu, or the common cold. Proper diet, along with nutritional supplements, contributes to enhanced immune functions. Taking common precautions such as frequently washing your hands, not touching your nose and mouth, and following a diet that helps support the immune system will help you to avoid getting this, or any type of flu. If treated at the onset, many of the remedies described above can stop the cold and flu in its tracks.

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