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Lessons From a Century After the Flu Epidemic of 1918

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By Dana Ullman, MPH, CCH

Every fall and winter, the media begins pumping stories about why you should be afraid, even very afraid, of the flu. Since 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asserted that between 12,000 and 56,000 people have died from influenza every year.

In actual fact, according to one of the most respected medical journals in the world, the annual death rate from influenza in the USA is closer to 1,000.1

When you realize that Big Pharma annually spends billions of dollars promoting their immensely profitable drugs on various television and radio news programs, it is no wonder that these news programs “give back” to Big Pharma by using the best marketing tool ever created: instilling “big fear” into people.

And the CDC’s cooperation with these outlandish statistics is simply evidence of the cozy relationship the CDC has with Big Pharma. Big Media inevitably reminds us about the famous flu epidemic of 1918 when supposedly 50 million people died from this ailment. Because this year, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of this major epidemic, Big Media is able to increase the fear factor to even higher levels. Whoopie!

However, you can predict that Big Media will not report accurately about influenza and its history because such history actually shows us that a very significant number of these deaths were not the result of the flu but due to the use of various fever-suppressing treatments, including aspirin, acetaminophen, quinine, arsenic(!) and even bloodletting. The “epidemic of influenza” should more accurately be deemed an “epidemic of fever-suppressing treatments.”

Understanding and Respecting Fever

It is widely recognized that fever is a vital defense of the body in its efforts to fight infection. A fever enables the body to increase its production of interferon, an important antiviral substance that is critical for fighting infection. Fever also increases white blood cell mobility and activity, which are instrumental factors in fighting infection.

Jane Brody, a longtime respected health columnist for The New York Times, reported back in 1982 on the healing benefits of fever. She noted, “a number of physicians, including pediatricians, are now suggesting that moderate fevers be allowed to run their course, for they may shorten the illness, potentiate the action of antibiotics and reduce the chances of spreading the infection to others.”2

Recognition that fever is beneficial has been known for more than 2,000 years, and historically, the healing benefits of fever are so substantial that many patients have actually been treated with ”fever therapy” to aid their recovery from such ailments as cancer, tuberculosis and even mania.3,4

However, in the late 1800s, aspirin and its various compounds were shown to rapidly reduce fevers, and the medical view of fever changed dramatically. Drug companies have successfully convinced conventional physicians and the general public to become vigilant in bringing down fevers, even sometimes using such drastic measures as cold baths and alcohol rubs along with aspirin.

In reference to the flu and fever, the bottom line is that it makes little sense to aggressively suppress the body’s natural defenses against viral infection. There are, of course, some exceptions here.

For instance, it may make sense to seek medical care in those extremely rare instances when one’s fever is above 104 degrees Fahrenheit for over six hours or in any fever in an infant less than 4 months of age. However, as you will see, physicians in the early 20th century prescribed massive doses of fever-suppressing drugs to virtually everyone with a fever.

The Epidemic of Fever-Suppressing Drugs

Although doctors today claim to believe in “evolution,” they instead show no respect for it when treating people with various diseases. An integral part of evolution is that the human body defends itself from infection and/or stress in its best efforts to survive.

In fact, fever is one of the body’s vitally important defenses: During a fever, the body naturally secretes interferon (an antiviral chemical), increases the number and mobility of white blood cells so that they can help fight infections, and binds iron in cells so that microbes cannot feed on it. However, too many medical doctors today prescribe drugs that work directly against the body’s self-defensive efforts, including fevers.

The German company, Bayer, began marketing its new “miracle” drug, aspirin, in 1899. Aspirin was sold as a painkilling drug AND as a drug that lowers fever. And few people could argue with its successes. It clearly reduced certain types of pain, and it clearly reduced fever.

Although one might initially and naively think that it is a good idea to lower a fever, such actions inhibit the body’s efforts to defend itself against infection. Using aspirin or other fever-lowering drugs when a person has influenza is akin to having the person fight flu viruses with two hands tied behind one’s back.

As it turns out, Bayer’s patent on aspirin in the USA ran out in February 1917,5 thereby allowing any and every company to make aspirin at extremely low prices. These facts led to a confluence of events that created a “perfect storm” for overprescribing a cheap drug that was encouraged by medical organizations, medical journals, and various military and governmental agencies at a time when it was not known that aspirin and other fever-suppressing drugs had a seriously dark side to them.

JAMA actually recommended a dose of 1,000 mg every three hours(!), which is the equivalent of almost 25 standard 325-mg aspirin tablets in 24 hours. Such dosages are more than TWICE the daily dosage considered safe today and, in fact, today it is specifically not recommended to take aspirin when one has influenza at all, let alone 25 tablets per day!

Yet, in 1917-1918, the Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy also recommended aspirin as a symptomatic treatment for influenza, and as a partial result of this recommendation, the military bought huge quantities of aspirin in 1917 and 1918.

It is further shocking to note that, according to the famed Smithsonian magazine, some medical authorities at the time actually recommended extremely large doses of aspirin of up to 30 grams per day (equivalent to 250 aspirin tablets per day!).6

The Smoking Gun That Shows Aspirin Was an Important Cofactor in Massive Death Toll

Based on the War Department’s most conservative count, influenza sickened 26 percent of the Army, which was more than 1 million men, and it killed almost 30,000 before they even got to France. The Navy recorded more than 106,000 hospital admissions for influenza and pneumonia out of 600,000 men (and these numbers do not count those people who experienced mild cases of the flu).7

Because the 1918 influenza epidemic was known to kill so many “young people,” it is not surprising that a particularly high percentage of those people killed were in the military who had too-easy access to the dangerous medical treatment of that day and age. Death from influenza usually inflicts infants and the elderly, but what was so unusual about the 1918 epidemic was how many young people between the ages of 18 and 40 died (the common age of people in the military).

A real “smoking gun” to the evidence that aspirin was an important cofactor in these deaths was the observation that many of these young people died of a type of pneumonia that included significant amounts of blood in the lungs, a condition that aspirin is known to cause (and this condition is rarely seen in young people with the flu).

One probable reason that there were considerably fewer deaths of infants and children during this influenza epidemic was that aspirin was NOT recommended for them in the leading pediatrics textbook of the day. Instead, hydrotherapy (water/bathing therapy) was recommended.

It was not just the Americans who overprescribed aspirin and other fever-reducing drugs to people with influenza. A historic 1920 report for the British Ministry of Health on the influenza pandemic recommended that the aspirin dose be 975 to 1,300 mg (3 or 4 tablets). No recommended frequency was given.8

Typically, these high doses of aspirin were repeated every hour, every other hour and every three hours. One London doctor bragged about treating his patient with 1,300 mg (4 tablets) hourly for 12 hours nonstop.

For the record, physicians in 1918 did not just recommend aspirin to lower fevers; they used a wide variety of drugs to do this. Whether or not aspirin was available, they used whatever drug they deemed would lower a fever.9 Commonly, doctors recommended quinine (usually recommending a highly dangerous amount of this drug: 1.3 grams every hour; today, it is not recommended to take more than 2 grams per day).10

Other doctors insisted upon prescribing arsenic(!) and other metallic solutions; bloodletting was even recommended by one very prominent physician.

Despite the widely-known assertion that aspirin should not be prescribed for people with influenza (you can even ask Google about this, and they will confirm that it is NOT recommended), many doctors still prescribe it with abandon and, sadly, some naïve adults prescribe it for themselves or their children.

It is no wonder that so many people died in the influenza epidemic of 1918 — it wasn’t because of influenza that they died, it was because of the overuse of aspirin and other fever-suppressing drugs of the day. Sadly, until and unless doctors learn to respect fever as an important defense of the body and until they stop prescribing it for people with influenza, we may yet again experience massive numbers of deaths from this usually innocuous disease.

Safer, Homeopathic Treatment of Influenza

In 1916, Dr. W.A. Dewey, a homeopathic physician who was a professor at the University of Michigan, had been charged with compiling a list of the institutions that had a homeopathic school of medicine in the U.S.

He recorded 101 homeopathic institutions, including Boston University, University of Minnesota, University of Iowa, New York Homeopathic Medical College (which today is known simply as New York Medical College), Hahnemann Medical College and The Ohio State University, among others.

Then, in 1919, Dewey took on the task of evaluating deaths from influenza in these institutions. An institution was deemed to be “homeopathic” if the management of the hospital was a homeopathic physician, if its staff was homeopathic and if the clinical care was conducted only by homeopathic physicians.

These 101 institutions in 1918 represented 20,092 beds, or 110,000 inpatients. Or, if you include outpatient services, it amounted to 750,000 patients. Thirty physicians in Connecticut responded to Dewey’s request for data. They reported 6,602 cases with 55 deaths, which is less than 1 percent.

Dr. Frank Wieland, a Chicago homeopathic physician, reported that in a factory of 8,000 workers where homeopathic treatment was provided, only one death from influenza was reported. Wieland noted that the homeopathic medicine Gelsemium was practically the only remedy used.

Dewey was amazed to discover that the average death rate in these institutions was the very small percentage of 4.1 percent for the 110,000 patients, compared with 30 percent in a hospital managed and staffed by conventional physicians.11

Respected Homeopathic Doctors Had Success Treating the Flu

Dr. T. A. McCann was a respected homeopathic physician who interacted considerably with conventional physicians. In fact, he was one of the few homeopathic doctors to work with the nationwide Federation of State Medical Examining Boards, serving as vice president in 1914 to 1915. McCann is often quoted today as a result of his report on the impressive successes of homeopathic treatment during the flu epidemic of 1918.

In 1921 at the 77th annual convention of the American Institute of Homeopathy in Washington, D.C., he reported that 24,000 cases of flu treated in conventional medical hospitals had a mortality rate of 28.2 percent while 26,000 cases of flu treated in homeopathic hospitals had a mortality rate of 1.05 percent.12

The dean of medicine at Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia was Dr. W. A. Pearson, and he evaluated 26,795 cases of influenza treated by homeopathic physicians in its hospital with a mortality of only 1.05 percent.

Dr. H.A. Roberts, who later became the editor of a leading homeopathic journal, recorded his experience in treating soldiers during World War I. In the transporting of soldiers to Europe, he recorded 81 cases of influenza, where all recovered and none died. In comparison, it was common for ships to lose dozens of soldiers.

Dr. Royal Samuel Copeland (1868-1938) was appointed president of the New York Board of Health from 1918 to 1923. Copeland was a homeopathic physician and previously a professor of ophthalmology and otology (eyes and ear health). He is widely credited with helping to keep the public calm during this worldwide epidemic.

Further, four leading hospitals in New York City at the time were homeopathic hospitals, all of which had extremely low death rates during this epidemic. Copeland actually bragged that the results that these hospitals experienced during the influenza epidemic of 1918 showed the fewest deaths by percentage than any other city in the world.13

Copeland’s medical successes were so appreciated far and wide that he sought to become a senator from New York in 1922 and had Franklin D. Roosevelt serve as his campaign manager. He ended up being elected three times as a senator and became immortalized by being the author of one of the most important consumer rights legislation ever written: The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938.

This legislation empowered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate drugs, and it gave formal federal recognition to the United States Homeopathic Pharmacopeia, thereby granting legal authority to homeopathy and homeopathic medicines. Copeland died three days after this legislation was signed into law.

Homeopathy Has a Track Record of Successfully Treating Many Infections

Homeopathy’s success in treating the notorious flu of 1918 was not surprising. The leading reason that homeopathy gained such popularity during the 19th century was in part due to its significant and obvious successes in treating the many infectious diseases of that era, including epidemics of scarlet fever, typhoid, yellow fever and cholera.14,15

Different popes in the Vatican granted the highest award they could grant a nonclergy person to three M.D./homeopaths who provided effective homeopathic treatment during cholera and typhoid epidemics in the 19th century.16

Bringing this historical experience up to date, three large modern studies have tested oscillococcinum, a popular homeopathic medicine from France in the treatment of the flu, and found this medicine to be clinically effective.17,18 One of these studies showed that 70 percent more people who took this homeopathic medicine were healed from the flu within 48 hours than those given a placebo.19

Even the famed medical journal, The Lancet, acknowledged the surprising efficacy of this medicine in the treatment of influenza.20 Of special interest is the fact that this homeopathic medicine, oscillococcinum, is made from the liver and heart of a duck.

Biologists and epidemiologists have acknowledged that ducks carry a wide variety of influenza viruses in their digestive tracts and, therefore, ducks are a vector in the spread of various types of flu viruses, including those that cause the “bird flu.”

It is interesting to note that ducks are known to infect humans and chickens, with virtually 100 percent of the chickens that get infected dying from influenza, and yet, ducks are immune to it.21 It seems that this immunity and the ability to fight influenza viruses are transferred in this homeopathic medicine.

The fact that homeopathic practitioners have used oscillococcinum since 1928 suggests that homeopaths have been more aware of this important vector in the spread of the flu. Further, homeopaths and homeopathic patients have been using this safe and effective medicine for almost a century.

Homeopathic Remedies for Influenza

Besides oscillococcinum, there are also various other homeopathic medicines that are used in treating people with the flu, though the effective use of these medicines requires individualization of treatment based on each person’s unique syndrome of symptoms. Some of the most common homeopathic medicines are:




Gelsemium (yellow jessamine)

Bryonia (wild hops)

Arsenicum album (arsenic trioxide)

Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset)

Rhus toxicodendron (poison ivy)

Nux vomica (poison nut)

Belladonna (deadly nightshade)


Although some of the remedies are known toxic substances, the super-small doses used in homeopathy led FDA to deem them safe enough to be considered “over-the-counter” drugs, that is, they do not require a doctor’s prescription.

The super-small doses used in homeopathy make it appropriately deemed to be “the original nanomedicine.” The “nanodoses” used in homeopathy enable it to be extremely safe to use when utilized in the generally infrequent doses, and these nanodoses are much more able to penetrate cellular membranes and the blood-brain barrier than large and/or toxic doses of medicines.22

For details about how to determine which remedy to use, I recommend getting a homeopathic book, either such as those that I’ve written — “Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines, Homeopathic Medicines for Children and Infants” — or that have been written by some of my respected colleagues: Shelley Keneipp’s “Parent’s Guide to Homeopathy” or Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg Ullman’s “Homeopathic Self-Care” (no relationship to me).

The Questionably Effective Flu Vaccine

The CDC strongly advocates for the flu vaccine for virtually everyone, despite the well-known recognition that this vaccine is one of the least effective vaccines presently available. In fact, according to Scientific American, “Despite government recommendations, there is little evidence that flu vaccines help individuals older than 65 or younger than 2.”23

As for adults, a review of the best studies was published in one of the most respected medical journals in the world, and they determined that there was very little benefit given to adults.24 The review concluded:

“Injected influenza vaccines probably have a small protective effect against influenza and ILI (‘influenza-like’ illness), as 71 people would need to be vaccinated to avoid one influenza case, and 29 would need to be vaccinated to avoid one case of ILI. Vaccination may have little or no appreciable effect on hospitalizations or number of working days lost.”

Further, they also asserted, “We were uncertain of the protection provided to pregnant women against ILI and influenza by the inactivated influenza vaccine, or this was at least very limited.”

It should be noted that around 20 percent of the flu vaccines today are made with thimerosal (a mercury compound). Although the CDC and the FDA commonly insist that there is no “causational” link between mercury and autism, it is widely known and accepted that mercury is a neurotoxin and that it clearly is “associated” with various neurological symptoms and syndromes, including autism.25

Another Homeopathic Protocol

Many homeopaths recommend a much safer way to reduce the incidence of influenza. One protocol is to use Influenzinum 9C (some homeopathic companies create a new version of this medicine each year and include in it the three most common flu viruses, as determined by the Pasteur Institute, and that are commonly placed in a flu vaccine).

This homeopathic medicine is made in a much smaller dose than any vaccine, and it doesn’t include any “additives,” including mercury, aluminum or formaldehyde. As yet, no formal research has been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of this treatment, though even skeptics commonly recognize that such homeopathic medicines are basically safe.

Closing Thoughts

It has been estimated that 50 million people died during the “flu epidemic” of 1918, and this article presents a compelling case that a large number of these deaths were due to the use of substantial doses of aspirin and other fever-suppressing drugs.

When you consider that around 40 million people have died from AIDS in 40 years, the large death toll in one year alone (from October 1918 to October 1919) is literally devastating. It is time (finally) to acknowledge that the medical community played a large role in the deaths of these 50 million people. By acknowledging this painful fact, we can hopefully learn from it.

The bottom line is that people today should not be fearful of the simple flu but, rather, we should be fearful of going to doctors who overprescribe dangerous fever-suppressing drugs (let alone other dangerous drugs that show that they have no respect for the wisdom of the inner doctor in all of us).

Further, because aspirin is an over-the-counter drug that does not need a physician’s prescription, we can and should educate the masses to realize that suppressing the fever in people who have influenza is NOT recommended and, in fact, it can be very harmful.

We should also be fearful of physicians who do not take seriously those most famous words of Hippocrates (the “Father of Medicine”) who asserted, “First, do no harm.” In other words, people should explore and utilize various safer methods FIRST before resorting to more risky medical procedures.

This article also presents a compelling case for how homeopathic medicines have been used successfully in history and have been shown effective in clinical research. To learn more about homeopathy, see my previous articles:

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Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it

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Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.
 

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes

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In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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Homemade Miso Soup With Vegetables

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homemade miso soup

Sometimes when the weather is chilly or you’re simply feeling under the weather, there is nothing better than a warm brothy soup. This miso soup combines nutrient-rich bone broth with the probiotic benefits of miso. And you get the benefits of vitamins and minerals from vegetables too. Make a big batch for the whole family or just one bowl for you!

What Is Miso?

Miso is a potent paste made out of fermented soybeans. But isn’t soy bad for you, you ask? Yes and no. Soy beans, like any legume, contain a large amount of phytic acid which interferes with nutrient absorption. They also contain phytoestrogens, which have their own negative side effects.

However, miso is fermented soy. Fermented foods contain bacteria which has eaten the sugars and starches present in the food. This process preserves the food and also gives it probiotics, enzymes, and additional vitamins. It makes the food more easily digested and the nutrients easier for the body to use.

There are several different colors of miso available, and all of them are just fine for soup making. Generally, the darker colored the miso, the stronger the flavor. I can usually find miso in the ethnic food section of my grocery store, but there are also some good organic options available online.

How to Make a Quick Miso Soup

To make miso soup, add a few teaspoons of miso paste is to a broth with spices and vegetables. Traditionally, dashi, the broth used for miso soup, is made with dried bonito (a type of fish) flakes and kelp. While you are welcome to do it this way, you can also use a good chicken bone broth like the one sold at Kettle and Fire.

Then, just top with additional seasonings, some vegetables, the miso, and sometimes a hard-boiled egg.

One note on adding the miso — it works best if you remove about ¼ cup of the warm broth from the pan and whisk in the miso paste with a fork before returning it to the rest of the soup. Once you add the miso, just warm the soup gently. Don’t boil it or you’ll destroy all the gut healthy bacteria in the miso!

If you’d like to try your hand at making dashi, the traditional fish and kelp broth for miso soup, this video is a good one.

No Time to Make From Scratch?

If you want to make life even simpler, Kettle and Fire also sells a delicious miso soup that’s all ready to go. Just heat it up and add any vegetables you like.

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Homemade Miso Soup Recipe

It’s easy to make miso soup at home using a good chicken bone broth, miso paste, and vegetables.

Ingredients

  • cup chicken broth
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp ginger (grated)
  • 3 mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 TBSP miso paste
  • ½ cup fresh spinach
  • 1 green onion (chopped)
  • 1 egg (optional)

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan, combine the broth, minced garlic, onion powder, grated ginger, and sliced mushrooms.

  • Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes.

  • Allow the broth to cool slightly.

  • Remove ¼ cup of the warm broth to a small bowl and whisk in the miso paste.

  • Return the broth/miso mixture to the pan with the rest of the broth.

  • Turn the heat on low and add the spinach, heating just until warmed.

  • Top with the green onion and hard boiled egg if desired.

Notes

Other vegetables you can add: baby bok choy, daikon, cabbage, kale, chard

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 181kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 163mg | Sodium: 820mg | Potassium: 675mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 35.3% | Vitamin C: 10.5% | Calcium: 5.4% | Iron: 14.7%

Have you ever used miso? What do you do with it?

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