Written by: Galina Pembroke
Though it was first described by the Greek physician Hippocrates in 412 BC, influenza remains a timely issue. Although sickness remains a universal suffering, there are ways we can beat this viral disease.
THE FIRST RECORDED pandemic, or global flu, was in 1580 AD. Back then there were no vaccinations, and if you were caught with flu the cure was worse than the disease. Since impure blood was thought to be the root of disease, a practice known as bleeding or bloodletting was used. This involved draining the patient of as much as four pints of blood. We live in kinder times thankfully. Today doctors prescribe rest and fluids – taking, not removing.
Despite officials hovering over limited quantities of vaccine, the reality of the “bird flu“ is that it is far more foul for fowl than it is for us. Known in science circles as HN51, it took its first human life in Hong Kong in1997. Since then it has infected 44 people, 32 of which have died. Poultry are another matter. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that between 20-25 million birds have been eliminated during the same time.
Unfortunately, numbers won’t dry our sweaty forehead when we hear words like “pandemic“ being thrown around on the news. These stories cite huge numbers based on hypothetical situations, and are usually taken out of context. For example, major American and Australian news channels recently ran the headline: “The WHO (World Health Organization) says bird flu could kill 100 million.“ Yet this is contradicted in the same article, when the WHO’s own Peter Cordingley states “that’s not a number we’re using. WHO’s thinking is that if this pandemic does take place, there will be at least two million to seven million dead.“ Cordingley immediately qualifies this scary scenario by stating that despite recent suspicious cases in Vietnam and Thailand, there is no firm evidence that the virus can move from human to human. He also adds that bird flu has very little ability to infect people – unless it mutates. According to the science journal Nature, the odds of this would be much greater if more people were carriers of influenza. If this happened, then domestic birds, especially poultry, would be the perfect conduit for combining human and bird flu into a one-virus-fits-all pandemic. Regarding this hypothesis, the WHO concluded: “Most influenza experts also agree that the prompt culling of Hong Kong’s entire poultry population in 1997 probably averted a pandemic.“
So there’s nothing to worry about. Our best defense against flu is to build our immunity and take common sense measures. The Merck Manual of Medical Information emphasizes the importance of regular hand washing. This is crucial because the common flu travels through saliva and what Merck calls “respiratory droplets,“ which land on objects we touch. Building immunity is the best preventative strategy. The following tips will help you pump up those flu-fighting cells:
· Stress less: Stress creates hormones that suppress immunity. Meditation, relaxation exercises, and creative daydreaming all reduce stress.
· Take vitamin C: Or eat oranges and other fresh fruits. The founder of vitamin C therapy, Linus Pauling, won two Nobel prizes during his lifetime. Though vitamin C won’t actually change your likelihood of catching cold, many studies indicate it will reduce the length and severity. The Linus Pauling Institute recommends a daily dose of 400 milligrams.
· Dip into bee pollen: The world’s oldest man, who recently died at age 114, credited this as a major reason for his longevity. A number of medical journal reports have discussed the role of bee pollen and bee propolis in fighting upper respiratory infections, such as those caused by the common cold and influenza viruses.