The following article is downloaded off the internet, dated September 23, 05. It is followed by an article I wrote and compiled discussing the homeopathic approach to the flu, including a discussion of how effective homeopathy proved to be during the Spanish flu pandemic of the early 20th Century.
Two studies find flu treatments fall short
CTV.ca News Staff
Just weeks ahead of flu season and amid worries of a global influenza pandemic, come two new studies suggesting that our flu treatment and prevention methods may not be enough.
The first is a meta-analysis of 37 years of research which found that flu shots may not be as effective in preventing the illness in the elderly as commonly thought. The second study found that many influenza viruses have developed high rates of resistance to our most common antiviral drugs.
The first meta-analysis was done by a large group of scientists, known as the Cochrane Review Group, who looked at the results of 64 international studies and published their findings Thursday on the website of The Lancet medical journal.
They found that flu shots reduced by 27 per cent the chance of an elderly person ending up in a hospital with influenza or pneumonia.
The results were better when the elderly lived in nursing homes. There, the vaccines prevented up to 42 per cent of influenza and pneumonia deaths.
The study's leader, epidemiologist Dr. Tom Jefferson, says that there is "a wild overestimation" of the effectiveness of flu shots.
"It is assumed to be 70, 80 or 90 per cent in the elderly,'' Jefferson said, but the study shows "it's not as effective... That needs to be clearly presented to our customers, not fudged.''
The findings are similar to those of a previous study done by the U.S. National Institutes of Health that found flu shots for the elderly in the United States had not saved lives.
"The studies published today reinforce the shortcomings of our efforts to control influenza," wrote Dr. Guan Yi, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, in an editorial that accompanied the study.
However, many health officials still say older people should be vaccinated. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said the findings do not change their recommendation that elderly people should get the shot every year.
Flu drugs lost efficacy
Meanwhile, a second study, also published Thursday on The Lancet website, found that human flu viruses are becoming increasingly resistant to the class of drugs known as adamantanes, one of only two existing classes of flu drugs.
The authors of that study, conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, say their findings call into question the future usefulness of the adamantane or M2 inhibitor drugs.
"We were alarmed to find such a dramatic increase in drug resistance in circulating human influenza viruses in recent years," said Dr. Rick Bright of the disease control centers. "Our report has broad implications for agencies and governments planning to stockpile these drugs for epidemic and pandemic strains of influenza."
What may be most worrisome is how quickly the flu viruses have become resistant to medicines once they are put into common use.
Before 2000, almost no virus was resistant to Amantadine. By 2004, 15 per cent of influenza A viruses collected in South Korea, 70 per cent in Hong Kong and 74 per cent in China were impervious.
Resistance rates were also high in a number of countries in South and Central America and in Europe.
In Canada, 30 per cent of viruses collected in 2005 and analyzed by the team were resistant to the drugs.
And then of course, there's the bird flu strain that has been ravaging poultry populations in Asia. In the few dozen cases in which humans have come down with the strain (H5N1), anti-viral drugs have been utterly ineffective.
The study's authors can't say why the viruses are becoming resistant but they speculate that it may be because of high use of the drugs in parts of Asia, where they can be bought without prescription, or because of a spontaneous mutation of the viruses.
Canada's Public Health Agency has plans to add large quantities of Amantadine to our pandemic stockpile. That's because the M2 inhibitors are much cheaper than the patent-protected neuraminidase inhibitors oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).
But the CDC study authors warn governments that amantadine "will probably no longer be effective for treatment or prophylaxis... in the event of a pandemic outbreak of influenza."
Fear of Flu?
The Homeopathic Approach
By JULEK MEISSNER ND
The flu is an acute infectious disease spread by a virus and most often transmitted by means of respiratory discharges from infected hosts. Bronchopneumonia is the most important complication and is responsible for most fatalities, usually caused by secondary bacterial infections. The elderly are most prone to develop this complication, but anyone who has compromised immunity is susceptible.
Fear of the flu stems historically from a devastating world wide pandemic of 1918-19, known as the Spanish Flu. Fortunately such a widely fatal acute epidemic has not occurred since. It has been estimated that 25 to 50 million people died worldwide.
In the United States the death toll during the Spanish Flu was 550,000, approximately 10% of the people afflicted. Homeopathic physicians documented more than 62,000 Spanish Flu patients treated with homeopathy, resulting in a mortality rate of 0.7%. Of those sick enough to be hospitalized, conventional medicine had a mortality rate of 30%, while in the homeopathic medical community, with 27,000 documented hospitalized cases, homeopathy was reporting a mortality of 1.05% (Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy 1921; 13:1028-43).
HOW TO PREPARE?
The flu vaccine is the most popular way our culture has to deal with the flu. The flu vaccine involves the use of attenuated solutions of viruses encountered in previous flu years. Each year flu strains may mutate however slightly. The current flu shot thus ends up not being effective for the year’s new strain. Moreover, those sensitive to the inoculation and the mercury fillers found in the flu shot formulation may develop flu symptoms and other side effects induced by the vaccine itself, including a more chronically compromised immune system!
How often and how badly we experience the flu depends on the health of our immune system. The best way to an improved immune system is a healthy life style, in the form of good nutrition, including garlic (if you’re not sensitive to it) and extra vitamin C (up to 5000 mg or more during a flu or any other acute condition, when our body needs this vitamin for quicker recovery), exercise, rest, refreshing sleep, play and laughter. If however you are already doing everything right and yet are still coming down with the flu, homeopathic medicine offers a safe and effective holistic approach to enhancing our overall resistance, with no harmful side-effects
Ironically, traditional homeopathy does not treat the flu, or any other condition! What homeopathy does is treat the individual, including whatever condition they might be suffering with.
To be homeopathic a medicine must be tailored to you and your unique coping style. A homeopathic doctor looks to understand what is unique about each person’s way of experiencing their condition, whether viral, bacterial, emotional or any other.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
When a flu epidemic strikes, we don’t all suffer the same way. Several people suffering the flu may all experience it differently, which may lead the homeopathic physician to several different prescriptions for the “same condition”! For instance, one person suffering the flu may be lethargic yet restless. A change of position temporarily relieves their aches and pains, so they constantly keep moving. This person would need Rhus-tox (a preparation of poison ivy!). Another person’s flue may feel much worse with motion. They want to keep still, and each time they’re disturbed they get very irritable. This person would need Bryonia (Wild Hops). A third flu patient will feel so weak and tired, they can hardly keep their eyes open from the weariness. If questioned about how they feel, they’ll mumble incoherently, so great is their fatigue. This person would need Gelsemium (Yellow Jasmine). Yet another flu sufferer will have changeable symptoms, sometimes chilly sometimes hot, restlessness followed by listlessness, irritability followed by weepiness and a sense of ‘poor me’. They would need Pulsatilla (Wind Flower). That’s because the proving of Rhus-t on healthy people produced restlessness, Bryonia produced an aggravation from motion along with intense irritability, Gelsemium caused severe lethargy (Yellow Jasmine was originally used by pre-Florida natives to stupefy fish, making it easier to catch the fish.), while Pulsatilla produced changeability of symptoms, along with a need for emotional support and a fear of abandonment.
THE VALUE OF SYMPTOMS
Symptoms define the way we cope! They represent our immune system in action, the strategy our body uses to defend itself. Symptoms are useful in guiding the homeopathic physician to an understanding of how your body copes and to what might be medicinal for your unique coping style. The goal for a homeopathic physician is to record all symptoms, both physical and mental, experienced by a sick person. We then prescribe a single substance known to produce in healthy volunteers symptoms similar to the ones you suffer with.
Provings are the experiments, the “double blind studies” our homeopathic community conducts on healthy volunteers to determine their therapeutic indications. A group of healthy volunteers is given a substance as an experiment. Side effects both physical and emotional are noted. A substance producing side effects most similar to your symptoms is what would be homeopathic to you. The better the match, the quicker the recovery!
THE LAW OF SIMILARS
Based on the “Law of Similars”, each homeopathic medicine is known to produce its own set of side-effects both physical and mental on healthy volunteers. The law of Similars states that a substance which produces symptoms in healthy volunteers can cure similar symptoms in the sick. Hence the word homeopathy, from the Greek words homeo (similar), and pathy (suffering or disease). What produces symptoms in healthy people can cure similar symptoms in the sick.
As an example of the law of Similars, when you chop an onion, it produces tears, burning in the eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing, which are symptoms typical of hay fever. Allium cepa, commonly known as red onion, is often indicated for some of us who suffer from hay fever. Likewise, why are so many of us hooked on coffee? It’s to keep us awake and alert. A homeopathic preparation of Coffea cruda is at times used homeopathically for people suffering from chronic insomnia!
Interestingly, modern medicine uses the Law of Similars unwittingly. The well-known medication Ritalin, used to treat ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is an amphetamine. Amphetamines stimulate the central nervous system. How peculiar, that a substance known to make healthy people speedy is the most popular drug used to treat naturally speedy children!
LIKE A VACCINE!
Why would I want to take something that’s known to cause the symptoms I’m suffering from? It’s important to remember that the doses used in homeopathic medicines are highly diluted. Also, as in the vaccine theory where a small amount of a substance known to be associated with a particular illness is given to those who are trying to develop resistance to that illness, a homeopathic medicine is meant to help you develop resistance to the symptoms it and you share in common. Unlike a vaccine however, each treatment is individualized…since we’re all unique, not everyone gets the same treatment.
A colleague who often works with midwives recently described the following case to me, a case which exemplifies the sophistication, the depth and interconnectedness that highlights the homeopathic approach. An 18 year old woman was being treated for recurrent flu and recurrent headaches. An instability of the first cervical vertebra was a causative factor of the headaches. Despite many chiropractic adjustments, her cervical vertebra kept going back out of alignment. Between the head aches and the recurring flu, she was sick more often than not.
Her head aches always start in the cervical region and extend up over the top of the head and into the eyes. During these times her eyes feel paralyzed and it’s hard to keep them open. She’s so weak then, that it’s hard keeping her head upright.
Emotionally she describes herself as clingy, with difficulty being alone. “When I’m alone, I cling to my TV till I fall asleep. I was 14 when I stopped sleeping in my mom’s bed. I have such a lack of confidence, it takes a lot of courage for me to even face the world. My boy friend recently left me because I was too clingy.”
To complete the case, the patient's mother was asked to describe her pregnancy with the patient. The mother admitted that the pregnancy was unexpected and unwanted, and that she felt unsure about whether she should have her. Her relationship with her husband was unstable at the time, and she considered an abortion several times throughout the pregnancy.
You can understand from the above case why I say we don’t treat the flu (or the headache), but rather the person as a whole. We are complex, sophisticated creatures. Ideally, for healing to occur on the deepest level, the value of our whole life story needs to be recognized and incorporated into our treatment plan. How we became the way we are has as much if not more to do with our well being as the bugs or allergens we get exposed to.
What needs to be treated in this young woman is not just the predisposition to headaches or flu, but a whole complex that started at the beginning of her life. This person’s physical and mental problems relate to safety in separation. She clings, to the TV, to her mother, to her boyfriend… It’s as if she doesn’t feel strong and stable enough to face the world by herself. To this day she suffers an unconscious fear of being abandoned or aborted…
Her remedy is the climbing vine Gelsemium (Yellow Jasmin), which clings to walls and rock formations. It’s in need of stability and support in order to survive. People who need this medicine often suffer immensely from the effects of bad news (an unwanted pregnancy). This plant was once used by the Natives of Florida as a poison to stun fish. The paralytic lethargy produced by Gelsemium corresponds well with the lethargic state of this patient.
Incidentally, Gelsemium is often indicated during labor. It is known to help women who are afraid of labor, who feel so faint and weak their labor pains cease; the mother-baby team clinging to one another so that the labor stalls!
Within a week of taking the medicine, the patient’s headaches vanished and have not relapsed since (3 years now)… her body responded well, by developing resistance to her core susceptibility. She has been flu-free for 3 years now. More important, she became much more comfortable emotionally. Facing the world was no longer such an act of courage, as she felt more confidant, less insecure. Remarkably, she has needed but 2 doses of this medicine in the past 3 years!
The recent news that flu shots offer minimal benefit may be alarming to those who have depended on an annual flu shot for their peace of mind. You need not panic however if you are in the know about homeopathic medicine.
Compared to synthetic drugs, homeopathic medicines are relatively cheap. Were our Canadian tax dollar invested in this and other methods of preventive health care, our tax burden would witness immense relief. Furthermore, unlike the mercury fillers in flu shots, homeopathy causes no harmful side-effects.
Until Canadian medical educational institutions incorporate a high quality homeopathic teaching program into their curriculum (as they do in many European countries), homeopathic medicine will continue to play a minor role in our Canadian health care system. Until the public recognizes and demands access to this gentle yet powerful method of holistic health care, our politicians will continue to ignore it, instead spending millions on flu shot programs. Instead of being used as a last resort, instead of being available only to those who can afford it like the elite or those covered by employee benefit plans, this method of health care needs to become the first line of defense, part of the medical repertoire of every hospital and out-patient clinic and ambulance (read my article on homeopathy in emergencies), accessible to all Canadians.