Every year, thousands of people line up for the flu shot. Very soon after –they get the flu. I’ve heard it so many times in the last month and I know from personal experience working as a nurse years ago, the flu shot can cause the flu. Why keep getting one?
The question then, is how did humanity survive throughout millennia without the flu shot? To answer, we have to study ancient history, or we’re destined to repeat it.
In fact, epidemiologists and viral geneticists studied the worst flu pandemic in the history of the world–the 1918 flu, which infected one-third of the entire world population at the time—over 500 million people. The first wave of this epidemic was typical of the flu—respiratory symptoms, fever, and malaise. As the virus spread beyond the respiratory track, it turned deadly. Instead of being confined to the lungs, the second wave of attack caused massive hemorrhaging from every opening in the body. People bled out from everywhere, not because of the virus—but due to the virus-stimulated cytokine storm, that burst vessels open from inflammation.
A “Cytokine Storm” occurs when the immune system continues to be activated and remains activated against the immune stimulant long after it is necessary. This causes collateral, damaging inflammation.
From scientific research of the viral genome, it appears two events aligned at just the exact time to create the 1918 pandemic:
- A new influenza strain had “jumped species” aka an “antigenic shift” occurred from avian (birds) just before 1913. Then by 1915 the virus split into two new forms infecting pigs and humans. Analysis of data showed that the severity of this flu was due to the powerful cytokine cascade initiated by the immune system response to infection. Cytokines are immune regulatory proteins that the body sends out to attempt to kill off an invading pathogen. But the response was a thousand times more extreme than the normal. Usually, those with weakened immune systems succumb because they can’t mount an immune response quickly (the elderly and the young)— but this was the opposite—these were mostly young people with healthy, strong immune systems, thrown together in the middle of war, crowded in trenches with no time to rest. This is what spread and what killed so many so quickly.
- The war itself, which began in 1914. This new strain of influenza spread like wildfire through the ranks on both sides of the conflict. Crowded together in trenches, hospital tents, and extremely unhealthy and contagious conditions, the virus found a perfect breeding ground. Sometime between 1915 and late 1917, the virus mutated again. The first to die, after the infected soldiers, were the first to respond—nurses and doctors; followed by morticians. These people were dealing with massive numbers of casualties, bleeding out from everywhere, completely overwhelming the systems in place—so many in fact, and so much blood—that machines were brought in to scoop up and bury bodies en masse. Day after day for two years, the machines, and the mass burials continued as hospitals, school gymnasiums, and any large building were emptied of bodies. As the war ended, millions of infected soldiers crowded onto ships heading home (no air travel yet). As these ships sailed from port to port, so did the influenza virus—and then further from trains, buses, and cars.
And then, between November and December 1920, simultaneously, around the world, the worst pandemic ended. What did we learn? Would a flu shot have prevented this? These are exactly the kind of questions that keep viral researchers and epidemiologists awake at night.
Fast forward. Could it happen again? Well, we have crowded animal feedlots with little inspection and several different animal species living side by side in virus breeding ground conditions—allowing viruses to jump species and mutate more readily. We have lots of population dense areas like inner city housing, day care centers, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and even corporate offices. And we have air travel—enabling one human to come in contact with infected animal blood in a remote village and to carry that virus (HIV in the 80’s) across the globe, spreading exponentially, in a matter of hours.
Flu vaccines take time to make—at least 4-6 months from production to distribution. By the time the vaccine is available, the infrastructure of the health care system to quarantine and treat those infected, and effectively administer it would already be decimated. Remember– first to succumb are the first to respond—nurses, doctors, health care workers; followed by morticians. If a vaccine could be distributed quickly—it would only work on the specific virus that emerged in that year, that instance, and was administered within 48 hours from the onset of illness. Any viral mutation would render the entire batch useless. Such exact conditions are essentially impossible to predict. In other words—without an actual human with the flu—it is impossible to make the right vaccine for that particular strain and by the time one case is discovered, it is too late. Drugs like Tamiflu are only active when metabolized in the body, and don’t break down before being excreted in the active form to flow unaffected through wastewater treatment plants. As this active form ends up in streams and waterways—it comes in contact with waterfowl. Thus, the avian strains develop resistance; and as the avian, swine, and human strains get together for dinner and share survival strategies—super resistance is passed on to strains infecting humans.
Tamiflu has some serious, questionable side effects too. Is it worth it?
If an epidemic began in an area where you live, would you know how to protect yourself? Your children?
The best defense is a pro-active offense. Find your truth.
Stephen Harrod Buhner wrote an amazing and informative book to help you called Herbal Antivirals, listed below.
STEPHEN HARROD BUHNER