Unless you have been fast asleep for the past 18 months or so, you will have noticed the intensifying media and medical/political frenzy over the likelihood of a future worldwide outbreak of bird flu. What is it all about? Do we need to become alarmed by the scary headlines or is it a case of media overkill?
According to a recent posting from Dr Mercola and other researchers there is the outright possibility that the statistics are 'fudged' and not a true representation of the situation which has been hyped way out of proportion to the actual risk. Dr Mercola believes that it is a hoax that is being used to create fear in order to sell more of a particular antiviral drug as well as flu vaccines. Check it out online at www.mercola.com.
The Bird Flu is the common name given to avian influenza - an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strains of the influenza virus and in particular a subtype labeled H5N1 which is cause for greatest concern. This strain produced a significant outbreak among poultry in Hong Kong in 1997 and more recently in 2003/2004 in Asia. Millions of birds were slaughtered in an attempt to control the outbreak.
Although the H5N1 virus does not normally infect humans, if it does make the jump it produces severe respiratory disease and can be fatal. The first documented case of this occurring was in the Hong Kong outbreak in 1997 where 18 people were affected and 6 died. Fatal human infections have since been reported from several other Asian countries. These infections with H5N1 have occurred from contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces; however, it is thought that in a few cases human-to-human spread of H5N1 have occurred, but spread of the virus has not continued beyond one person.
The British Medical Journal states "the lack of sustained human-to-human transmission suggests that this AH5N1 avian virus does not currently have the capacity to cause a human pandemic"
The concern with this virus is that it mutates rapidly and has a documented ability to acquire genes from other viruses that would allow it to infect humans. Also, it is an extremely deadly virus compared to other subtypes. The point that is under debate is that because all influenza viruses have the ability to change, scientists are concerned that the H5N1 virus one day could be able to infect humans and spread easily from person to person. Other avian viruses have done this in the recent past. Many readers will remember the "Asian flu" of 1957-58 and the "Hong Kong flu" of 1968-69 which caused hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. It is thought that the "Spanish Flu" of 1918-19 was an avian derived virus and here there were over 50 million deaths. So with historical pandemics such as these it is easy to see why scientists and politicians are worried.
Remember, though that back in 1918, the standard of hygiene was poorer than today, and the spread and virulence of the virus had a lot more to do with the war and returning soldiers, who had compromised immune systems.
These viruses do not commonly infect humans, so we have little or no in-built immune protection against them. If the H5N1 virus were able to infect people and spread easily from person to person, an influenza pandemic (worldwide outbreak of disease) could begin.
A balanced approach and keeping up with all the facts about bird flu would be a sensible starting place. Don't believe everything you see on the news or in the media, check it for yourself. I personally do not fear bird flu or any other flu for that matter.
And here's why: you must be prepared with a strong immune system and healthy lifestyle, to keep "healthy". Don't trust the medicine to fix you, certainly don't go looking for magic bullets. There are none. At the end of the day it is your immune defense and lifestyle that keeps health and disease in balance.
With a strong immune system, you are safe from attack by all but the most virulent microorganisms. Even if infection does gain a foothold, it's usually just a matter of time before your immune system mounts an effective counterattack. Strengthening your immune system is the primary goal in "preparing" for a possible influenza pandemic.
Now let's discuss the practical steps you can take to improve immune system function.
First, look at your lifestyle for any factors that may be interfering with your body's ability to fend off illness. The following things may be adversely affecting your immune system:
- Chronic or severe stress
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Consumption of stimulants such as caffeine
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Fast foods, junk food, over-processed foods
- Excessive sugar consumption
- Trans-fatty acids such as margarine
- Cigarette smoke
- Lack of exercise
- Poor sleep quality
- Personal hygiene
For most people, the biggest factor that depresses their immune function is stress.
If you want a properly functioning immune system, it is absolutely vital that you reduce the amount of stress in your life as well as learn to better control it. Don't stress and don't worry, ask for help if you need it.
A deficiency of virtually any single nutrient can also significantly impair immunity. Nutrient deficiency is the most common hindrance to a well body, and this applies all around the world, not only in the third world.
So here are some simple guidelines for improving health and your immune system:
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of pure water a day
- Increase a variety of vegetables preferably raw and especially green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains
- Follow a healthy eating plan such as the Insulin Zone system
- Increase consumption of essential fatty acids such as fish oils, olive, flaxseed, coconut oils
- Take a high potency multimineral antioxidant and vitamin supplement
- Take 1000mg or more vitamin C every day
- Wash hands regularly, cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing
- Have adequate rest
- Avoid excess sugar. It makes the white blood cells sluggish and correct functioning of these are absolutely vital to immune function and surveillance
- Eliminate cigarette smoke
Other things that are useful for enhancing the immune system are herbs such as Propolis, Echinacea, Astragalus, Andrographis, Olive leaf. Then there are nutrients such as zinc that is important to a host of immune activities and a special high potency Colostrum which I regularly use and recommend.
If you are uncertain about which is best for you or you require professional, confidential help then give me a call, and I will help you to improve things for your immune system and health.