CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – “Get the shot,” is the message now the flu season is here.
But how effective is the vaccine? What is the chance of a mismatch? Are there serious complications? Should you get your shot at the local pharmacy? Or treat yourself with over-the-counter products? Should you rely on natural remedies?
The right answers could save your life.
Q: How effective is the vaccine?
A: Australia’s flu season, during its winter and our summer, usually predicts what happens in North America. And during Australia’s past winter, there were 215,280 cases. Dr. Ralph Campbell, reporting in Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, says this increase was most likely due to a vaccine mismatch. In effect, it was the wrong vaccine for the current virus. But suppose researchers achieve a good match. Campbell says the vaccine’s effectiveness still only provides 40 and 60 per cent protection. And, with a mismatch, the protection can be as low as 10 per cent.
Q: So why is it so difficult to find the right vaccine for today’s virus?
A: Because the flu virus is clever. It has the ability to undergo rapid change, known as mutation, making itself resistant to the vaccine.
Q: What kills most people?
A: Influenza can be a mild or fatal illness. But people don’t normally die of influenza. Rather, death is the result of a secondary infection, such as pneumonia. This is often related to poor health and a weakened immune system, particularly in the young and elderly.
Q: How do you develop a healthy immune system?
A: Dr. Campbell says a good start is to take a daily multivitamin pill. This ensures you’re not lacking in the B vitamins, zinc and selenium. He also suggests daily amounts of vitamin A 10,000 IU, and 400 to 1200 of vitamin E and, in the winter months 1,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D.
A report in the publication, “LifeExtension”, says that as we age our blood and immune cells contain less vitamin C. And that stress decreases the amount of C. For example, diabetes patients and those suffering from gastritis have half the amount of C in their blood. Cancer and arthritis patients have one third the amount and, following a traumatic accident or surgery, levels can drop as low as 10 per cent. We are also under stress when influenza hits like a10 ton Mack truck.
Few people realize that, during an acute infection, immune cells contain as much as 100 times more vitamin C in their blood than under normal conditions. So it’s important to keep a reservoir of C in the blood at all times in case it’s suddenly needed. One way to do this is by taking at least 4,000 milligrams of C daily.
Q: How do you treat the severe infection of influenza?
A: Dr. Campbell says that vitamin C, if started early, can prevent the worst flu symptoms. He recommends a dose of 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams with each meal. Or 1,000 milligrams an hour until loose stools occurs. But, if pneumonia develops, large amounts of intravenous vitamin C can fight both viral and bacterial infections. I often wonder how many patients die of pneumonia each year deprived of intravenous vitamin C.
Q: What things should people not to?
Dr. Campbell reports a drive by pharmaceutical companies and doctors for patients to take anti-viral drugs when flu is suspected. These can result in a slight decrease in duration of symptoms, but 10 per cent of patients develop side effects, some of which are serious. He also suggests that if you decide on a flu shot get it from your own doctor who knows your medical history. And never make the mistake of treating yourself with over-the-counter drug store products as some cause severe liver injury.
Remember, I’m not your doctor and only he or she can decide on the value of a flu shot. But I fight infection by taking 10,000 milligrams of C daily. I use Medi-C Plus, a powdered form. Several brands are available in health food stores.
Why 10,000 mgs? It’s because I’ve had a heart attack and C also fights hardening of arteries as well as infection. But for others 4,000 mgs is adequate unless the flu strikes. It’s then imperative to increase the amount. Campbell is the author of the book, “The Vitamin Cure for Infant and Toddler Health Problems”.
Dr. W. Gifford-Jones is a syndicated columnist whose medical column appears in The Guardian every Tuesday. Check out his website, www.docgiff.com, which provides easy access to past columns and medical tips. For comments, readers are invited to email him at email@example.com. He can also be found on Twitter @GiffordJonesMD.