Monday, August 31

H1N1 Swine Flu: Anxiousness is not a scientific method

The following comment was left at RBO blog in response to my post "Dealing with H1N1 swine flu outbreaks in U.S. schools: CDC advice about non-medical strategies and what's wrong with it."

"Vaccines are POISON. The only one[s] who benefit from vaccines are PHARMACEUTICALS. Lots of Vitamin D will protect you from the flu and many other diseases. DON'T be fooled by paid off media hype. STOP the sickening assault on humanity." (1)

Unlikely the author bothered to read my post. The comment seems a stock blurb for insertion on any blog that mentions swine flu. But I decided to pretend there was a thinking person behind the comment:


You're overlooking certain facts about the era during the 1918-20 swine flu pandemic, which reportedly got off the ground as much as two years earlier with a very mild form of the swine flu strain:

  • The peoples who were worst hit by the virus were Pacific islanders. They lived in sunlight year round. They practically oozed Vitamin D. And they had very healthy fish-based diets and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • In those days many people in the USA, even those who lived in cities, got plenty of sunlight so they were not deficient in Vitamin D.

  • And peoples in the USA got plenty of calcium and magnesium and plenty of whole, unprocessed grains. Because the soils they grew vegetables and fruits on weren't virtually depleted of trace minerals, as many soils are today, the produce was in better shape nutritionally than the modern versions. And of course the produce wasn't sprayed with tons of pesticides and other chemicals.

  • The Americans in those days ate free-range chickens that were free of antibiotics, and the eggs from those chickens were chock-full of lecithin and 'good' fatty acids. The Americans ate other meats as well, pork and beef, and fish, that were also free of antibiotics and other chemicals present in today's foods.

  • Yet despite their wholesome diet, Americans died in droves from swine flu. And many of those victims were young people with strong immune systems and they weren't prone to the range of immune-compromised illnesses, such as diabetes, that are the bane of life for many modern Americans.

  • As for China and India -- home to great curative concoctions that go back thousands of years -- the Chinese and Indians also died from the 1918 swine flu virus.

  • So what are you going to tell me now? That there's a special nutrient never before available outside the remotest region of Tibet, until a natural supplement website started selling it, which can prevent influenza infection?

    There are still mysteries of genetics; scientists still don't know why flu viruses strike some people and leave others alone. But proper nutrition can no more protect a person from being attacked by a flu virus than it can prevent electrocution, if a person steps on a live wire resting in a puddle of water.

    Nor can nutritional supplements protect the immune system from generating a reaction to an unrecognized viral invader -- a reaction that can be so violent it kills the host human or maims him for life.

    It could turn out that many so-called auto-immune diseases are actually a byproduct of an immune system's battle with a virus. Lots more research needs to be done in that area. But many deaths from influenza are actually from an immune system's friendly fire.

    The only viable protection is a vaccine that's well-matched to the virus. Reportedly anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu can "prevent" infection but only as long as they're taken on a prophylactic basis. Yet it's impractical, expensive, and maybe also unhealthy to take them for extended periods of time.

    Frankly, given the way that Tamiflu works, I'm still unclear on whether it actually "prevents" infection or whether the drug kills off the virus before it can replicate after it's first invaded a cell.

    (It's a matter for debate whether a virus is truly a life form but just as we speak of live and dead electrical wires, so we speak of live and dead viruses.)

    Anyhow, exposing an immune system to a killed virus allows it to calmly develop antibodies at a leisurely pace.

    As to vaccines that aren't well-matched: You'd think after all these millions of years of battling with bird influenzas the human immune system would recognize a flu virus in any guise, no matter how much it's mutated or recombined with other flu viruses. But the immune system is in some ways like a savant who can recognize hundreds of car makes and models but can never quite grasp the concept of "car."

    That's why, year in and year out, vaccine makers have to collect that year's circulating flu strains and make a new vaccine that combines the strains, even though they've made similar vaccines so many times they can do it in their sleep.

    What happens if a mutation that isn't in the cocktail becomes #1 on the influenza hit parade that year, after the vaccine has been made? You and the governments who paid for the vaccine are out of luck, that's what happens -- although if one of the strains in the vaccine is a close-enough match, your symptoms won't be as severe if you get infected with the virus.

    But once you know that your immune system goes ballistic when it doesn't recognize an invading flu virus, you also know why you can stuff yourself with nutritional supplements and it won't make a bit of difference to that phenomenon.

    Stop and think: would it make a difference to your reaction if you took adequate Vitamin D then found an armed stranger in your house? No? Then why would you expect your immune system to be as calm as a buddha in the same general circumstance just because you fed it Vitamin D?

    Next question: Can good diet and mega-doses of certain nutritional supplements, medicinal herbs help in the recuperation process?

    That's a question for a physician with a good grounding in nutritional medicine to answer. I do know from the readings I've done on the swine flu outbreak that what's crucial in the early stages of the disease are proper hydration and fast medical intervention.

    Regarding your comments about vaccine: you can no more be poisoned from an influenza virus in a killed-virus vaccine than you can be electrocuted by a dead electrical wire.

    It's impossible to get sick from being injected with an 'inactivated' or dead virus. So if you're sick after getting a flu shot, there are only four explanations:

    Hysteria, suggestibility, allergy to eggs, or an allergic reaction to an additive in the vaccine. That last, beyond slight reddening and swelling at the shot site, is rare.

    The jury is still out on whether the most famous illness associated with a flu vaccine, the Guillain-Barre Syndrome, actually came from the 1976 swine flu vaccine. And the biggest question is whether GBS arises as a reaction to the immune system going ballistic while it's fighting a virus it doesn't recognize.

    Is it likely that the reports of GBS in 1976 were in some way connected with the vaccine? "Likely" is not a scientific term. Yeah, it seems likely from what we know at this point but Nature gives no quarter, no points for being half right.

    As for the miniscule amount of mercury compound in the antibacterial additive in multi-dose flu vaccine vials: Just don't eat tuna fish for a few weeks before and after the shot if you're that worried about the cumulative effects of mercury in your body. And/or use a detox preparation, available at any health food store. Or demand a mercury-free vaccine injection.

    As for children, who can be more sensitive to mercury compounds, there's the single-dose flu vaccine, which is free of the additive.

    None of the above means I think flu vaccines carry no risks. Even the most stringent flu vaccine trials can't account for genetics; there can be rare reactions to flu vaccine but because they're rare they could show up only after hundreds of thousands of people, or even millions, received the vaccine; even then it that might take years before the harm became evident.

    The other side of the risk coin is the long-term harm that can be done by the body's war with a virus.

    Nor do I feel comfortable giving an opinion on MedImmune's live-virus nasal spray vaccine, the flu vaccines made from cell technology, or flu vaccines that use adjuvant.

    I do have one question I haven't had time to research. Are any of the swine flu vaccines the U.S. government has purchased made from cell technology instead of the egg-based method?

    The vaccine trials in the USA are testing swine flu vaccines from five different companies. Once testing is finished the U.S. government wants the FDA to fast-track approval for all the swine flu vaccines; this, on the argument that 2009 swine flu vaccines from all five companies are the same as the regular seasonal influenza vaccines made from egg culturing.

    The argument wouldn't necessarily be true if any of the vaccines were made from cell technology; such a swine flu vaccine, if it's the first such product from a cell-based technology, would be experimental. I think that would mean the vaccine would require more extensive testing than the tried-and-true egg-based seasonal flu vaccines.

    I know that the government is anxious to distribute as much swine flu vaccine as possible, as quickly as possible. But anxiousness is not a scientific method. Neither is fear.

    There is no question that most governments have put too much faith in a vaccine. Even as early as June, governments that had contracted for swine flu vaccine were warned by vaccine makers that there was great difficulty growing the seed stock for the vaccine. Yet the governments continued to stick their heads in the sand -- assuring the public, even as late as mid-July, that the first vaccine shipments would be on time.

    A month later, the CDC had to admit in public that only a fraction of the swine flu vaccine for the U.S. would arrive by mid-October. Worse, it takes two months for flu vaccine to be fully effective -- something I didn't know until recently; I'd thought it was between three and six weeks for full effectiveness.

    Worse, the hyperfocus on vaccine development caused the U.S. government (and most other governments) to neglect other areas of pandemic-defense planning, with consequences that are potentially disastrous.

    In short, their vaccine totem betrayed its worshippers. Now they're up the creek with only prayer left to the religious and luck left to the rest. Yet this is not a problem of bureaucracy; China's approach to dealing with the 2009 swine flu pandemic has been a textbook illustration of how governments must treat a pandemic virus in this era. The Chinese who thought up the approach and executed it are civil servants -- and/or they're civil servants who had the wits to listen to those outside government who knew how to deal with the 2009 swine flu outbreak.

    So this goes much deeper than a problem with government. This is decades of wrong thinking about the nature of pandemics, thinking that did not keep pace with the times. The thinking grew like barnacles over public health regimes from here to Timbuktu. Science is as much to blame in this as the civil servants who were asleep at the wheel.

    I remember talking more than 30 years ago in Nepal with a Nepalese doctor, Western trained, who told me, "There are diseases in this part of the world that the West has never heard of."

    That's right, but the first-world governments could not encompass the implications; they didn't confront what would happen if diseases they'd never heard of began jetting in overnight. That wasn't a concern in those days, when most air travel was between first-world countries.

    The harbinger was AIDS. The index AIDS patient was a Haitian working in the Congo. How did a Haitian end up working in the Congo? It's a question we don't bother to ask today because globalization of the work force is so much a part of modern life.

    After I started writing about swine flu I received a letter from an American who earnestly claimed that every "new" viral disease since AIDS had been a creation of military laboratories. The reader was blind to the fact that the "laboratory" is international airports perched in countries that have few paved roads.

    China's government, which made every mistake in the book in their response to AIDS, SARS, and H5N1, learned the hard way how the era of fully globalized work forces and international air travel intersected with infectious disease transmission. Their battle plan against the 2009 swine flu virus reflects lessons learned -- lessons that the rest of the world's governments have yet to absorb.

    A swine flu vaccine is part of China's battle plan. But the difference between the first-world's approach and China's is that first-world public health officials weren't tuned into the present era. They failed to take into account the speed with which a pandemic could strike in this era, and the lag time between the onset of a pandemic and the development and distribution of a pandemic-fighting vaccine.

    It sounds insane but prior to the 2009 swine flu outbreak, the CDC truly believed they'd have weeks to prepare in the event of an outbreak of a pandemic virus. How did they come to this idea? Well, they reasoned thusly:

    Their computer models told them that the next pandemic virus would be an aerosolized version of the H5N1 ("bird flu") virus, which their computer models also told them would arise in Asia. This virus would be so lethal and kill so many people straight out of the box that it would immediately announce its existence -- and the falling bodies would slow the progression of the disease, as the virus 'burned through' human clusters. Ergo, the CDC thought they had a few weeks to prepare before the Doomsday virus arrived on U.S. shores.

    As we know, the next pandemic was nothing like the CDC imagined.

    What happens next?

    I once heard Les Brown, a famous motivational speaker, explain why troubles could pile up at just the time we're trying to advance ourselves. He said that when you experience a lot of turbulence in your life, think of how an airplane can experience turbulence as it climbs to a higher altitude.

    China's Ministry of Health, and innovative companies such as Filligent, Replikins, BIO.DIASPORA, and Veratect -- are going to lead the world into a new era.

    They're going to teach societies that just as a war is not won through any single tactic, so even the most powerful pharmaceutical interventions are not enough to protect humanity -- especially in this era of deadly infectious diseases that can span the globe within hours.

    That's what is coming next: a move to a higher level of knowledge. All the rest is just turbulence.

    1) Procrustes at RBO informed me around 3 PM EDT that she'd deleted the comment by STOP THE VAX. That's good news. Somehow the comment had slipped past her.

    1 comment:

    DocJim said...

    Wow, you sure touched a lot of bases on this. Even a few days of vacation seems to be good for you!

    I think I agree with everything you have stated in this post. I seldom agree with anyone on so many points.