SHAFAQNA-- A new strain of bird flu that has killed 22 people in China is "one of the most lethal" of its kind and is more easily transmissible to humans than an earlier strain that has killed hundreds around the world since 2003, a top World Health Organisation (WHO) official has said.
The H7N9 virus has infected 108 people in China since it was first detected in March, according to the Geneva-based WHO. Although it is not clear exactly how people have been infected, WHO experts see no evidence so far of the most worrisome scenario – sustained transmission between people.
An international team of experts led by the WHO and the Chinese government conducted a five-day investigation in China, but said they were no closer to determining whether the virus could become transmissible between people.
Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director general for health security, said at a briefing: "The situation remains complex and difficult and evolving. When we look at influenza viruses, this is an unusually dangerous virus for humans." Fukuda also named the previous H5N1 strain that killed 30 of the 45 people infected in China between 2003 and 2013.
Although the H7N9 strain in the current outbreak has a lower fatality rate to date, he added: "This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses that we've seen so far."
Fukuda stressed that the team was still at the beginning of its investigation and that "we may just be seeing the most serious infections" at this point.
The team of experts said what was mystifying about the latest virus was the absence of visible illness in poultry, "making it harder to track and control".
Fukuda also said that based on the evidence, "this virus is more easily transmissible from poultry to humans than H5N1", which has killed 371 people globally since 2003.
Ho Pak-leung, an associate professor in the department of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, noted in the British Medical Journal that in the two months since it was first detected, the H7N9 flu had already resulted in almost twice as many confirmed infections in China as H5N1 caused there in a decade.
Besides the initial cases of H7N9 in and around Shanghai, others have been detected in Beijing and five provinces.
Samples from chickens, ducks and pigeons from poultry markets have tested positive for the H7N9 virus, but those from migratory birds have not, said Nancy Cox, director of the influenza division at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"At least we can now understand the likely source of infection is poultry," Cox said.
The experts also looked at poultry samples from farms but found nothing, said Malik Peiris, a clinical virologist at the University of Hong Kong.
Liang Wannian, the director general of the office of health emergency at the National Health and Family Planning Commission, warned that more sporadic cases would probably emerge "before the source of infection has been completely confirmed and effectively controlled".
There has been a "dramatic slowdown of cases" in the commercial capital of Shanghai, which has recorded most of the deaths, said Anne Kelso, the Melbourne-based director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza.
"This is very encouraging at this stage of the outbreak," she said.
After Shanghai closed down its live poultry markets in early April, "almost immediately there was a decline in detection of new cases", Kelso said.
"The evidence suggests that the closing of the live poultry markets was an effective way to reduce the risks of infection of the H7N9 virus," she said.
Even so, the WHO's China representative, Michael O'Leary, issued figures last week showing that half of the patients analysed had no known contact with poultry.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Two people in the central Chinese province of Henan have been infected by a new strain of avian influenza bringing the nationwide total to 51, state media have reported.
The latest cases of infections from the H7N9 bird flu virus, reported on Sunday, were the first in the province.
One of the victims, a 34-year old man in the city of Kaifeng, is critically ill in hospital, while the other, a 65-year old farmer from Zhoukou, is stable. The two cases do not appear to be connected.
A total of 19 people in close contact with the two victims were under observation but had shown no signs of infection, said Xinhua news agency said.
On Saturday, Xinua reported that a seven-year-old girl in the capital city of Beijing was the first person to contract bird flu outside of the eastern region.
The girl was reportedly in a stable condition in a Beijing hospital, and was given the drug Tamiflu, received intravenous drips on Thursday night, and was transferred to an intensive care unit when her condition worsened.
The parents of the girl, who developed flu symptoms on Thursday morning, are engaged in the live poultry trade.
Michael O'Leary, head of the World Health Organisation's office in China, said that members of the organisation were not surprised that the virus had spread, and they "still expect that there will be other cases."
So far 11 people have died of the H7N9 bird flu strain since it was confirmed in humans for the first time last month.
Shanghai and the eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui had been the only confirmed locations of infection until the case in Beijing, a city home to over 20 million people, and Sunday's report from Henan.
The source of infection remains unknown, though the virus has been found in some birds in poultry markets that remain the focus of investigations by China and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The new virus has caused severe illness in most of the people affected, leading to fears that if it becomes easily transmissible, it could cause a deadly influenza pandemic, though there has been no indication of that happening.
In a bid to calm public jitters over the virus, Chinese authorities have detained a dozen people for spreading rumours about the spread of bird flu.
Earlier in April, the World Health Organisation praised China for mobilising resources nationwide to combat the strain by culling tens of thousands of birds and monitoring hundreds of people close to those infected.
"So far, we really only have sporadic cases of a rare disease, and perhaps it will remain that way. So this is not a time for over-reaction or panic," said Michael O'Leary, the WHO's representative to China.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Chinese police detained at least 10 people for spreading rumors about the H7N9 bird flu, state media said on Wednesday, as the death toll from the new strain of the virus rose to nine.
Authorities detained the people in six provinces -- Shaanxi, Guizhou, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Fujian -- some of whom had posted "fake information" online about new cases of the virus in their areas, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The death toll and number of infections in China from the strain of bird flu first found in humans last month has ticked up daily.
Nine people have died from the 31 confirmed cases of the virus, all in eastern China, according to data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission. State media quoted authorities as saying a vaccine should be ready within months.
One man detained in Anhui was given seven days of administrative detention for fabricating posts about infections on Chinese microblogs, Xinhua said.
The Xi'an public security bureau in Shaanxi province is investigating another man's posts, "to prevent untrue information from causing public panic", Xinhua said.
Scientists around the world have praised China for its handling of the deadly outbreak, but many Chinese are skeptical of the government's pronouncements about the H7N9 virus given a history of public health scandals and cover-ups.
The government initially tried to conceal an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China in 2002 and killed about one in 10 of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.
Chinese Internet users have questioned why the government waited weeks to announce cases of thebird flu strain, but health officials said it took time to identify the virus, which was previously unknown in humans.
China's Communist Party is very keen to maintain social stability, but it has struggled to clamp down on rumors, which often spread quickly on the Internet.
Authorities have detained people in the past for rumors, including 93 people accused of circulating information about the apocalypse last December.
Still, some commentators have noted that reports of a flu-like condition killing one person near Shanghai had been circulating on Chinese microblogs weeks before the government confirmed it was a case of H7N9.
"From this you can see if the government tried to cover up like in 2003 (SARS cases) but more and more of these posts surfaced, there would be no way to conceal it," social media watcher and journalist Wu Heng told Reuters.
The latest H7N9 victim was from Anhui province, Xinhua reported. Among the new cases are several from Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, at least one of whom is dangerously ill, the news agency said.
The China Securities Journal reported on Wednesday that a vaccine for H7N9 has been authorized by China Food and Drug Administration and is expected to be introduced to the market in the first half of this year.
The exact source of infection remains unknown, although samples had tested positive in some birds in poultry markets that remain the focus of investigations by China and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that it was looking into two suspected "family clusters" of people in China who may be infected with the H7N9 virus, potentially the first evidence of human-to-human spread.
The new virus is severe in most humans, leading to fears that if it becomes easily transmissible, it could cause a deadly influenza pandemic.
However, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Gregory Hartl told a news briefing in Geneva that so far there is no firm evidence of human-to-human transmission occurring which could spark a pandemic. Chinese health authorities have said the same.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Scientists taking a first look at the genetics of the bird flu strain that recently killed two men in China said Wednesday that the virus could be harder to track than its better-known cousin H5N1 because it might be able to spread silently among poultry without notice.
The scientists, at several research institutes around the world, said the H7N9 virus seems troubling because it can generate no symptoms in poultry while seriously sickening humans. They said the virus, previously known to have infected only birds, appears to have mutated, enabling it to more easily infect other animals, including pigs, which could serve as hosts spreading the virus more widely among humans.
The findings are preliminary and need further testing. In the meantime, the scientists are urging Chinese veterinary authorities to widely test animals and healthy birds in affected regions to detect and eliminate the virus before it becomes widespread.
In addition to causing two deaths in Shanghai, the virus also seriously sickened five other people in two eastern provinces in the strain’s first known infections of humans. Those regions stepped up measures this week to guard against the spread of the disease, calling on hospitals to report severe pneumonia cases with unknown causes and schools to monitor for fevers.
In the wake of the outbreak, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention shared the genetic sequence of the new virus with the global health community. The data allow scientists to make preliminary interpretations of how the virus might behave in different animals and situations. Such hypotheses, while not conclusive, can help provide important early warnings to authorities dealing with the disease.
The scientists said that based on information from the genetic data and Chinese lab testing, the H7N9 virus appears to infect some birds without causing any noticeable symptoms. Without obvious outbreaks of dying chickens or birds to focus efforts on, authorities could face a challenge in trying to trace the source of the infection and stop the spread.
“We speculate that when this virus is maintained in poultry the disease will not appear, and similar in pigs, if they are infected, so nobody recognizes the infection in animals around them, then the transmission from animal to human may occur,” said Dr. Masato Tashiro, director of the World Health Organization’s influenza research centre in Tokyo and one of the specialists who studied the genetic data. “In terms of this phenomenon, it’s more problematic.”
This behaviour is unlike the virus’s more established relative, the virulent H5N1 strain, which set off warnings when it began ravaging poultry across Asia in 2003. H5N1 has since killed 360 people worldwide, mostly after close contact with infected birds.
“In that sense, if this continues to spread throughout China and beyond China, it would be an even bigger problem than with H5N1 in some sense, because with H5N1 you can see evidence of poultry dying, but here you can see this would be more or less a silent virus in poultry species that will occasionally infect humans,” said University of Hong Kong microbiologist Malik Peiris, who also examined the information.
Scientists closely monitor bird flu viruses, fearing they may change and become easier to spread among humans, possibly sparking a pandemic. There’s no evidence of that happening in China.
Peiris praised Chinese health authorities for being forthcoming with data and information, but said animal health agencies needed to step up and act quickly. He urged China to widely test healthy birds in live animal markets in the parts of the country where the human infections have been reported to find out what bird species might be hosting the virus and stop the spread.
“If you don’t stamp it out earlier now, there won’t be any chance of stamping it out in the future,” Peiris said. “It already may be too late, but this is the small window of opportunity that really one has to grasp, as quickly as possible.”
The Agriculture Ministry’s propaganda office could not be reached by phone and did not immediately respond to a faxed list of questions.
Other information gleaned from the genetic data was that the H7N9 virus was what scientists call a “gene re-assortant” — in which three bird viruses swapped genes among themselves — undergoing changes that allowed it to adapt more easily, though not fully, to human hosts, WHO’s Tashiro said. One change has allowed it to lodge onto the surfaces of cells of mammals, making it easier to infect humans.
“The tentative assessment of this virus is that it may cause human infection or epidemic. It is still not yet adapted to humans completely, but important factors have already changed,” Tashiro said.
In China, the public is highly sensitized to news of infectious disease outbreaks, with many still recalling the SARS pneumonia scare a decade ago, when the government stayed silent while rumours circulated for weeks of an unidentified disease in southern Guangdong province. The coverup contributed to the spread of the virus to many parts of China and to two dozen other countries, killing hundreds of people.
While many foreign health experts say China is being far more forthcoming this time than during the SARS scare, the government still faces credibility questions at home as it tries to juggle the need to respond to calls by the public for more information and the need to prevent unnecessary panic.
“The H7N9 bird flu is currently approaching. Ten years ago, the lesson learned in fighting SARS was: The greatest enemy is not the virus, but covering up the truth; the best medicine is not steroids, but transparency and trust,” Yang Yu, a commentator with state broadcaster CCTV, said in a post on his microblog. “No matter what H7N9 is, now, the time to test the progress of Chinese society over the past 10 years has come.”
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Food and Drug Administration rapidly approved a new flu vaccine Wednesday called Flublok, which is manufactured in a way that bypasses the need for the virus to be grown in chicken eggs, the New York Times reported. However, the FDA maintained the timing of the decision is not related to the current flu season.
Developed by a company called Protein Sciences, representatives say the vaccine could be available within the coming weeks, to better aid those during the current flu pandemic.
“This approval represents a technological advance in the manufacturing of an influenza vaccine,” Dr. Karen Midthun, a senior official at the FDA, said in a statement.
According to the New York Times, Protein Sciences could have around 150,000 doses of Flublok ready in the next couple of weeks, which could help those who were unable to get flu shots due to egg allergies.
The majority of flu vaccines grow the influenza virus in chicken eggs, then ultimately kill and deconstruct the virus. With Flublok, only the protein hemagglutinin from the flu virus is used. The gene for hemagglutinin is put in a virus that infects insect cells from the fall armyworm, which ultimately help to produce the protein.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Fox News
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – rly, very young, or those with certain health conditions, don't develop a strong immune response to the flu even after vaccination. Others get exposed to the flu before the vaccine can take effect.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week estimated the effectiveness of this year's vaccine to be 62 percent, based on a one-month survey of more than a thousand adults and kids.
That's in line with the historical average. A 2011 review of previous research published in Lancet Infectious Diseases found that vaccines had a combined efficacy of 59 percent against flu in healthy adults aged 65 and younger.
Trying to Change the Game
That less than stellar record has scientists working to develop better tools to fight flu.
"Is [the current vaccine] the answer for tomorrow? Yes, it's the best we have. Use it," said Michael Osterholm, lead author of the 2011 review and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
"Is this the answer for the next few tomorrows?" he continues. "No. We need better flu vaccines."
And that need is acute. The World Health Organization puts the global death toll from seasonal flu at 250,000 to 500,000 per year, out of 3 million to 5 million severe cases. In the United States, an estimated 3,000 to 49,000 people die each year from the flu, according to the CDC.
Osterholm was the lead author of an October Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy report that called for "game-changing" influenza vaccines.
The traditional flu vaccine includes pieces of the "head" of the hemagglutinin protein, which is found on the surface of the flu virus. When immune cells called B cells run into those bits of protein after vaccination, the cells learn to make antibodies against them. Later, if the actual flu virus comes along, these prepared B cells can mount a speedy response and prevent infection.
The problem is that this part of hemagglutinin mutates rapidly, and the older antibodies are of no use against the newer version of the virus.
Researchers and some biotech companies are now trying to target proteins in the influenza virus that don't vary from strain to strain and from year to year.
"If this piece of the virus is the same among all influenza viruses and doesn't change over time, maybe we can make a vaccine against it," said Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.
The hope is that the approach yields a universal vaccine that protects against seasonal flu without annual shots. Such a vaccine could also keep the body poised to fend off a major new flu virus, like the 1918 strain that killed tens of millions of people and the 2009 pandemic of a strain of H1N1, aka swine flu.
As they seek that silver bullet, researchers are taking a variety of approaches.
Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, is working with colleagues on a vaccine that interacts with the body's T cells, which kill other cells that have been infected by a virus.
"T cells can recognize human cells infected with the virus because very small regions of the [infected cells'] contents are displayed on the outside," said Gilbert. "It's like putting little flags on the outside to say there is something nonhuman inside."
The advantage is that those little flags on the outside of infected cells don't vary much from flu strain to flu strain.
The Wait Continues
The Oxford group has published the results from some small, early studies in humans but will need many more studies to prove T cell approach is effective, Gilbert said.
Even if that or other new vaccines make it to market, the likelihood of a flu shot for life is low. Immunity declines over time, so people would probably need boosters.
"I think we'll probably move to a shot every five years," said Gilbert. Such a shot could be offered year-round, cutting down on lines at drugstores and doctors' offices between September and March.
For now, the wait continues. "Candidate vaccines are in early trials," said the Mayo Clinic's Poland. "It could be four to ten years before we see one."
The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy report from October noted that it can take as long as 15 years and as much as $1 billion to bring a new vaccine to market.
It also predicted that flu vaccines taking an entirely new approach will face a longer approval process and "substantially higher" financial risk than more traditional vaccines. More studies will be needed, and regulators will need to figure out, for example, how to estimate the biological effectiveness of a vaccine that doesn't rely on the same mechanism as today's vaccines.
The October report urged changes to the U.S. government's regulatory process for approving new flu vaccines and "coordinated partnerships involving national governments, the pharmaceutical industry, the investment community, and academia." And it called on the U.S. government to "assume a primary leadership role" in spurring the development of new vaccines.
Can't wait for all that? There is an incremental improvement to the current flu vaccine coming soon.
Starting in the 2013-14 flu season, there will be a "quadrivalent" vaccine available that will protect against two influenza A and two influenza B strains. In a couple of years, all vaccine manufacturers will be making them, said Poland.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – However, I believe in vitamins C and D as essential vitamins that, at healthy levels, can slow the progression of a viral infection. But there’s no clear indication that these vitamins are preventative, and therefore, they cannot be equated to the flu shot and good hygiene.
Vitamin C was first touted as a cold remedy in the 1970s when Dr. Linus Pauling, a Nobel laureate and biochemist, began writing how large doses of it were associated with reducing the frequency and duration of the common cold. But despite its widespread use and acceptance as a remedy of sorts, there is still very little proof as it its efficacy.
What can be said about vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is it’s an essential antioxidant that helps maintain muscle, bones and blood vessels. And in high doses, it seems to decrease the ability of the virus’ ability to multiply effectively at the cellular level.
Vitamin C is found naturally in many vegetables and fruits – especially citrus fruits, but it can also be found in supplement form. And whether you’re sick or not, vitamin C is vital for overall health.
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. And there is such thing as an “overdose” when it comes to vitamins. Taking more than 2,000 mg a day of vitamin C can result in kidney stones, nausea or diarrhea.
More and more research has come out over the years linking vitamin D deficiency to an array of health problems including heart disease, depression, rickets, cognitive impairment and even cancer.
So it’s no surprise that vitamin D has grown in popularity among consumers for the prevention cold and flu. But again, we’re presented with the same challenges in proving that taking it can help prevent the onset of a virus.
Vitamin D is thought to play an important role in immune function, but clinical trials have shown that it is virtually powerless in the fight against cold and flu in adults with healthy levels.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at 322 healthy adults in New Zealand and found that those who took large monthly doses of vitamin D developed just as many infections over an 18-month period as those who took a placebo.
Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because it is produced by the body in response to sunlight, but it can also be found in some foods like fish, eggs and dairy products. But it can also be taken in supplement form.
If you have low levels of both vitamins C and D, you may be walking around with a weakened immune system, which can leave you susceptible to viral infections. But while a good balance of vitamins is essential, you must be very careful in taking mega doses of them when you’re getting sick because it may not even be worth it – and in some cases, cause more harm than good.
The bottom line is, right now, your best bet to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Fox News
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Chances are that you or someone you know has been chained to the bed recently with fever, fatigue, sore throat and muscle aches.
That's because the current flu season is turning out to be a bad one, affecting more people than usual, starting earlier and covering a broader geographical area. Government health experts say 18 children, under age 18, have died because of the seasonal flu and 2,257 people had been hospitalized with flu symptoms through the end of 2012.
"The sense that everybody has is that there's been an extremely rapid increase in influenza," says Trish Perl,co-leader of a flu study encompassing about 100 clinics in several cities. She is also an epidemiologist for the Johns Hopkins Health System in Baltimore. "It has been relatively widespread across the United States."
The public should be concerned, says Gregory Poland, professor of medicine and infectious disease at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"A decade ago, when we had widespread circulation (of the seasonal flu), we had 70,000 deaths in the U.S.," says Poland, who directs Mayo's Vaccine Research Group.
"We have this cultural thing in the U.S. about, 'Oh, it's just the flu.' I was telling a group yesterday, imagine in October I said, 'We expect a virus to be circulating in the U.S. and it will kill 30- or 40,000 Americans.' Can you imagine the panic that would ensue?"
For the fourth week in a row, the proportion of people seeing health care providers for flulike illness is above the national baseline, and jumped from 2.8% to 5.6% in that time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Last season's proportion peaked at 2.2%, the CDC reports.
Twenty-nine states plus New York City are now reporting high flulike activity, up from 16 states the week before, the CDC says. Forty-one states reported in the last week of December that flulike activity was widespread geographically, with that number up from 31 states the week before, according to the CDC.
During the last week of 2012, 7% of all deaths reported in 122 U.S. cities were due to pneumonia and the flu, according to the CDC. That figure is just below the epidemic threshold of 7.1% for the last week of the year.
The medical industry is concerned because this is the earliest flu season the U.S. has seen in the past 10 to 12 years, says Michael Jhung, an epidemiologist and influenza expert at the CDC.
Flu season usually peaks in January and February, according to the Flu.gov website maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The predominant type of flu that is circulating is H3N2 Influenza A virus, which is making up 76% of the viruses reported, according to the CDC.
The outbreak has strongly affected the East and the South and is spreading westward, Poland says.
Perl reports from her studies that initially health professionals were seeing a lot of Influenza B, but now they are seeing mostly A as well as other respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus or RSV.
H3N2 flu seasons tend to be more severe, Poland of the Mayo Clinic says.
On the ground, the outbreak has sent more people to doctors and hospitals with flu symptoms.
For instance, in Minnesota, 600 people were hospitalized because of the flu and four people died, Poland says. Among those who died was an otherwise healthy 17-year-old boy who was visiting the Twin Cities area from Texas, according to Poland.
The professor said he's hearing similar stories from colleagues around the country of people who are generally healthy being hit hard.
In Indiana, seven deaths have been associated with influenza, two in people younger than 18.
"It's not too late to get vaccinated, and the CDC encourages everyone who hasn't been to do so soon," Jhung says.
Enough vaccine has been produced and distributed so that everyone who wants a shot should be able to get one. He urges, though, that if people run into delays because of a run on vaccine, not to be discouraged.
"People … may have to go to more than one pharmacy," Jhung says.
Perl says the outbreak also is a good opportunity for the public to remember that hand-washing and use of sanitizing gels can reduce infection rates by 30%.
"It's an opportunity for us to reinforce those basic things your mom always told you," she says.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews invited journalists to witness her getting her flu shot on Monday, but only about 32 per cent of Ontarians chose to get vaccinated last year. The figures for Ottawa are higher — about 44 per cent of residents got the shot in 2011, according to Ottawa Public Health — but still, more than half of us didn’t.
“We think that some people are in general afraid of vaccines, so we like to remind people it’s a very safe vaccine,” said Riccardo Lucchini, a public health nurse working on Ottawa Public Health’s immunization campaign.
It’s also easier than ever to get the shot. In addition to the many family physicians who offer it, there are city-run flu shot clinics. Ottawa Public Health holds the first of the season this weekend, and will hold more than 30 around the city before the year is over.
The provincial health ministry has also authorized pharmacies to give flu shots for the first time, and Lucchini estimates that more than 55 Ottawa-area pharmacies will offer the vaccination this season.
Some of the reluctance to get the flu shot could in part be due to misconceptions about any adverse effects and fears of getting needles, according to Dr. Maher El-Masri, the research leadership chair in the University of Windsor’s faculty of nursing.
El-Masri says the vaccine is safe for everyone except those people with contraindications or egg allergies, and there are oral vaccines available for those who don’t like needles.
But practitioners of non-Western medicine have a somewhat different philosophy on flu prevention, and research looking at the effectiveness of flu vaccines also raises questions.
A systemic review published in July 2010 by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international network of health experts which reviews existing primary research and considered the gold standard when it comes to determining the quality of a study, assessed all the studies going back to 1966 that evaluate the effects of vaccines against influenza in healthy adults. Among the Cochrane reviewers’ conclusions was that influenza vaccines “have a modest effect” in reducing influenza symptoms and lost work days.
As well, the Cochrane review found that flu vaccination had no effect on hospital admissions or complication rates, and that studies of flu vaccines in adults funded by the drug industry were published in “more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size.”
Among the studies published on influenza vaccines, they wrote, “there is widespread manipulation of conclusions.”
Colleen McQuarrie, a doctor of naturopathic medicine who has been practising in Ottawa for 10 years, said she discusses the research on the effectiveness of the vaccine with her patients and they decide for themselves whether to take it. For those who don’t want the vaccine, she talks about strategies for “optimizing immune system function and mitigating the effects and duration of the influenza virus.”
Getting enough sleep, eating foods with the right nutrition to help the immune system produce antibodies (fatty fish is good for getting Vitamin D) and, yes, washing hands, are all part of the plan. McQuarrie also tells people to stay home when they do catch something so as not to pass it on.
McQuarrie also offers two homeopathic remedies to boost the immune system before cold and flu season: pascoeleucyn and oscillococcinum.
For a list of Ottawa Public Health flu clinics, visit: http://ottawa.ca/en/health_safety/conditions/flu_clinic/index.html
with files from Zev Singer of the Citizen and Beatrice Fantoni of the Windsor Star r.
WHAT IS THE FLU?
Influenza — or the flu — is a viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs.
The World Health Organization says there are three types of seasonal influenza (A, B and C) and numerous sub-types. Types A and B are the most common types.
Health Canada estimates that 10 to 25 per cent of Canadians get the seasonal flu each year and between 4,000 and 8,000 will die from it.
The flu is spread by an infected person through the air (talking, coughing, sneezing) and through infected surfaces. The virus stays active on a surface for up to 48 hours. A person can contract the flu from breathing in infected droplets, or touching an infected surface and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
The seasonal flu vaccine varies from year to year.
The WHO uses data from its Global Influenza Surveillance Network to predict what the three most prevalent strains of seasonal flu are circulating and recommends a vaccine composition that targets those.