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False Advertising Lawsuit Against Poultry CAFO Will Proceed

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There’s overwhelming evidence showing that antibiotic use in livestock is driving the rise in antibiotic resistance, and many poultry producers — including Tyson Foods,1 Perdue2 and Pilgrim’s Pride — have taken steps to curb antibiotic use in their live poultry production.

In recent years, a number of grocery and restaurant chains have also vowed to stop buying and selling chicken raised with antibiotics. Examples include Whole Foods Market, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Panera Bread and even McDonald’s.

Six of the largest school districts in the U.S. (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Miami-Dade County and Orlando County) have also switched to antibiotic-free chicken in their cafeterias.

In contrast, Sanderson Farms,3 the third-largest poultry producer in the U.S., has stood firm against the tide of calls to reduce antibiotic use, vowing to continue using the drugs in their chickens, going so far as to use it as a selling point,4,5 while simultaneously advertising their chicken as “100% Natural.”

A lawsuit filed against the company last year, charging Sanderson Farms with false advertising, is now moving forward. At the same time, Sanderson has announced it will discontinue using antibiotics deemed important for human health for disease prevention purposes in their production — a radical change in stance that shows public pressure is paying off.

For Years, Sanderson Farms Has Refused to Yield to Call for Antibiotic-Free Chicken

Remarkably, Sanderson Farms’ CEO Joe Sanderson Jr. has actually gone on record saying antibiotics don’t cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and that the shift away from antibiotics is nothing more than a marketing ploy to justify higher prices.6

Lampkin Butts, president and chief operating officer of Sanderson Farms, has also stated “There is not any credible science that leads us to believe we’re causing antibiotic resistance in humans.”7 In a 2016 press release, the company said:8

“While Sanderson Farms recognizes that antibiotic resistance is an issue that must be taken seriously, many industry experts agree the issue is related to the overuse and over-prescription of antibiotics in humans, and more closely linked to medical institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes, rather than agricultural processes that have been in place for decades.”

All of this despite ample amounts of research demonstrating the very real dangers of agricultural antibiotic use. Sanderson has also attempted to confuse people by pointing out that no commercially sold chicken — whether treated with antibiotics or not — will contain antibiotics by the time you buy it since the antibiotics must be stopped in time before slaughter to ensure the drugs are no longer in the animals’ system.

However, this doesn’t address the actual concerns about antibiotic use in chickens, because even if the antibiotics are no longer present in the meat, the resistant bacteria are present and they are the primary problem.

When animals are given antibiotics, it promotes drug resistance in the microbes found in and on the animal, and those drug-resistant bacteria can then be spread to those who handle or eat the tainted meat. This is true whether the chicken contains traces of antibiotics or not. So, while eating trace amounts of antibiotics is a concern,9 it’s not the most significant one.

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How Sanderson Defended Its Continued Use of Antibiotics

In 2015, Food Business News quoted a statement from Sanderson Farms that said:10 “[A]fter doing our homework, we do not plan to withdraw antibiotics from our program, and there are three main reasons.

1. Animal welfare — “We feel like we need to take care of the animals in our care … There’s one thing that you cannot take care of if you don’t use antibiotics and that is enteritis in the chicken… Particularly when there’s no evidence whatsoever that using these antibiotics really does cause antibiotic resistant bacteria.”

2. Sustainability and environmental responsibility — “It’s going to take more chicken houses, more electricity, more water, more acres of corn and more acres of soybeans … So you’re going to have to grow these chickens longer and use all that to achieve the same market weight.”

3. Food safety — “We have all been busting our behinds to reduce the microbiology loads, the microorganism loads, on these chickens coming to the plants. And everybody knows what happened in Europe when they took antibiotics away.

All those loads went up on the chicken. So you’re talking food safety. You take antibiotics out, and you’re going to have more campylobacter, more salmonella …”

Sanderson’s stance clearly flies in the face of science. If you cause antibiotic resistance to develop in the animals, you’re inevitably causing it in humans. Recent research11 has even linked drug-resistant infections in more 100 people to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in puppies given antibiotics prophylactically!

Lance Price, head of George Washington University’s Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, called the findings “shocking,” saying,12 “This is an important study that’s shining a light on something that we need to spend more time on.” According to the authors of the report:

Outbreak isolates were resistant by antibiotic susceptibility testing to all antibiotics commonly used to treat Campylobacter infections. This outbreak demonstrates that puppies can be a source of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections in humans, warranting a closer look at antimicrobial use in the commercial dog industry.”

Drug-Resistant Bacteria in and on Food Can Have Very Real Impact on Human Health

A 2015 mortality and morbidity report13 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed just how difficult it’s been to curb these pathogenic bacteria, with prevalence of some types of drug-resistant bacteria falling while others are taking over in their stead.

In 2014 alone, more than 19,540 Americans contracted confirmed drug-resistant infections from food, and 71 of them died as a result. A report commissioned by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron estimates that by 2050 antibiotic resistance will have killed 300 million people; the annual global death toll reaching 10 million.14

In November 2017, a report15 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also revealed the number of Americans infected with multidrug-resistant Salmonella via contaminated food is on the rise, increasing from 9 percent in 2014 to 12 percent in 2015, and poultry is a primary source of these infections.

According to the FDA, the Salmonella was resistant to as many as four first-line antibiotics. So, for Sanderson to claim that antibiotic use in their poultry production has no bearing on human health is a shameful denial of scientific facts.

Tests Reveal Sanderson’s ‘All-Natural’ Chicken Is Anything But

Adding insult to injury, Sanderson Farms advertises their chicken as 100 percent natural, its slogan being that the only thing in their chicken is chicken.16 However, last summer, tests conducted by the National Residue Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service revealed a number of questionable and potentially hazardous drugs in Sanderson’s chicken, including but not limited to:

  • Ketamine (a hallucinogenic party drug)
  • Prednisone (a steroid)
  • Ketoprofen (an anti-inflammatory)
  • Penicillin (for which the residue regulatory limit is zero)
  • The synthetic growth hormone melengestrol acetate and the beta agonist ractopamine — two substances banned in poultry production

Sanderson Sued Over Their Use of ‘100% Natural’ Claim

In response to these findings, Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth filed a lawsuit against Sanderson June 22, 2017, alleging the company’s “100% Natural” claim is false and misleading, as testing reveals their chickens contain human and veterinary antibiotics, tranquilizers, growth hormones, steroids and pesticides.17

The plaintiffs seek “accounting of profits, injunctive relief, corrective advertising and attorney’s fees.” At the time, a representative for the Organic Consumers Association said,18 “Sanderson’s advertising claims are egregiously misleading to consumers, and unfair to competitors. The organic and free­-range poultry sector would be growing much more rapidly if consumers knew the truth about Sanderson’s products and false advertising.”

Since its filing last year, the lawsuit has been dismissed twice. It turns out the third time was the charm. Meat + Poultry recently reported19 Sanderson’s motion to dismiss the case, filed for the third time, was denied and the case will finally move forward. Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of Food and Agriculture at Friends of the Earth, commented on the judge’s decision:20

“After years of misleading the public and denying the public health risks associated with overuse of antibiotics in animal production, we welcome the judges’ decision to allow our lawsuit against Sanderson Farms to continue.”

 Meat + Poultry further reports:21

“Sanderson argued that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient to support the litigation, and that the plaintiffs cannot challenge the company’s ‘100% Natural’ slogan without considering the full context of an advertisement in which the slogan is used.

But U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg disagreed, writing ‘… Review, to the contrary, is limited to the four corners of a specific webpage at issue. No authority suggests a reasonable consumer is expected to search a company’s entire website (or certainly all of a company’s statements across all forms of advertisements) to find all possible disclaimers.

This is not akin to disclaimers being adjacent to the challenged statements. Although the reasonable consumer standard demands that a plaintiff must show ‘more than a mere possibility’ that a challenged advertisement might conceivably mislead a few consumers … it does not ask they be private investigators as defendant appears to suggest.’

Writing about Sanderson’s ‘Bob and Dale’ commercials, Seeborg wrote: ‘By criticizing its competitor’s advertising as misleading to consumers, Sanderson’s commercial is likely to mislead reasonable consumers into believing that Sanderson products were no different than its competitors who never used antibiotics in their chicken production.

Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged Sanderson’s actions are likely to mislead reasonable consumers to believe Sanderson’s products are the same as competitors that never administer antibiotics during their production, for which a reasonable consumer is willing to pay a premium.'”

Years of Public Pressure on Sanderson Farms Is Paying Off

In May 2016, I urged you to pressure Sanderson Farms to come to its senses and join other major poultry producers in taking proactive steps to reduce its antibiotic use. Earlier this year, investors also started applying pressure, urging Sanderson Farms to reconsider their routine use of the drugs.

According to Reuters,22 a proposal to end the use of medically important antibiotics for disease prevention in chickens “received the support of 43 percent of votes cast at the company’s annual meeting,” held February 15, 2018. That’s 13 percent higher than a similar proposal presented in 2017, when only 30 percent of investors voted to end the company’s use of antibiotics.

It now seems all this pressure is finally starting to pay off. November 30, 2018, Sanderson announced23,24 it will discontinue two antibiotics deemed “medically important for humans for disease prevention” by March 1, 2019. The antibiotics in question are gentamicin (used in chicks) and virginiamycin (added to chicken feed).

According to Sanderson’s press release,25 “The change follows the completion of an independent study the Company commissioned earlier this year on its antibiotics program for its live operations.”

While the company-commissioned study “found no misuse of antibiotics at Sanderson Farms or other deficiencies in its program,” the advisory board concluded that “[a] move by [Sanderson Farms] to a system where nonmedically important antibiotics . . . can be used for prevention, and medically important antibiotics can be used for treatment and control of disease, could represent a responsible compromise to better preserve efficacy of antibiotics important for human health, while also avoiding the adverse impacts … on chicken health and welfare.”

For clarity, Sanderson will still use antibiotics to treat and control disease. It is not a blanket elimination of antibiotics from their production; they just won’t use these two medically necessary antibiotics for the prevention of disease. Still, it’s a small step in the right direction.

Rebecca Spector, west coast director at Center for Food Safety, commented on the judge’s ruling to proceed with their lawsuit, and on Sanderson’s decision to stop using medically important antibiotics:26

“We are pleased that this lawsuit can now move forward and believe that Sanderson Farms is taking a good first step toward eliminating the use of medically important antibiotic use in livestock production.

We hope Sanderson will utilize a third-party certifier to verify these production practices so that consumers can be assured that these chickens were raised without routine use of antibiotics.”

Tell Sanderson What You Think of Their 100% Natural Claim

Sanderson Farms is the lone holdout for routine antibiotic use in poultry production. Considering they’re the third largest poultry producer in the U.S., they can have a big impact on antibiotic-resistant disease and human health. While it’s great news that the lawsuit against the company is moving forward, you can still push for change by contacting Joe Sanderson directly, to let him know that antibiotic-free does indeed matter.

You can use their online Contact Page to write them an email or, better yet, call them at 1-800-844-4030, or write a letter to:

Sanderson Farms

Attn: Joe Sanderson, CEO

PO Box 988

Laurel, MS 39441

Strategies to Protect Yourself and Limit Spread of Drug-Resistant Bacteria

For years, experts have warned we may soon be at a point where virtually all antibiotics fail, and once that happens, it will be devastating to modern medicine. What can you do to minimize your risk? Three key recommendations that can help reduce your risk for antibiotic-resistant infections include:

  1. Avoiding antibiotics unless your infection is severe enough to warrant it
  2. Staying out of hospitals as much as possible — Treatment using medical scopes is particularly risky.27 Also remember that antibiotics do not work for viral infections such as cold or flu
  3. Buying only organic or biodynamic grass fed meats and animal products — Remember nearly all meat served in restaurants and on planes are raised in factory farms and therefore more prone to contamination with potentially drug-resistant bacteria

The following practical in-home suggestions will also reduce your risk:

1. Avoid antibacterial household products such as antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers and wipes, as these promote antibiotic resistance by allowing the strongest bacteria to survive and thrive in your home.

2. Properly wash your hands with warm water and plain soap, to prevent the spread of bacteria — Be particularly mindful of washing your hands and kitchen surfaces after handling raw meats, as about half of all meat sold in American grocery stores is likely to be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. Avoid antibiotic soaps that typically have dangerous chemicals like triclosan.

3. Take commonsense precautions in the kitchen — Kitchens are notorious breeding grounds for disease-causing bacteria, courtesy of contaminated meat products, including antibiotic-resistant strains of E-coli. To avoid cross-contamination between foods in your kitchen, adhere to the following recommendations:

Use a designated cutting board, preferably wood, not plastic, for raw meat and poultry, and never use this board for other food preparation, such as cutting up vegetables. Color coding your cutting boards is a simple way to distinguish between them.

To sanitize your cutting board, use hot water and detergent. Simply wiping it off with a rag will not destroy the bacteria. Coconut oil can be used to clean, treat and sanitize your wooden cutting boards. It’s loaded with lauric acid that has potent antimicrobial actions. The fats will also help condition the wood.

For an inexpensive, safe and effective kitchen counter and cutting board sanitizer, use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Keep each liquid in a separate spray bottle, and then spray the surface with one, followed by the other, and wipe off.

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Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes

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(Natural News) Sweet potatoes may not be as popular as regular potatoes, which is too bad — since they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potatoes can provide more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. Both purple and orange varieties contain antioxidants that can protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Eating sweet potatoes is beneficial for your health

Sweet potatoes are brimming with micronutrients and antioxidants —  making them useful to your health. Below is a list of reasons why you should incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet.

They improve brain function

The purple variety of sweet potato contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have revealed that anthocyanins are effective at improving cognitive function. Moreover, the results suggest that purple yams can help protect against memory loss. Antioxidants from the purple variety safeguard the brain against damage from free radicals and inflammation.

They aid digestion

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber. This macronutrient prevents constipation, diarrhea, and bloating by adding bulk and drawing water to the stool. In addition, fiber keeps a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria.

They slow down aging

The beta-carotene in orange sweet potatoes can help reduce damage caused by prolonged sun exposure. This is especially true for people diagnosed with erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitive diseases. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are not only linked to diseases but also premature aging.

They boost the immune system

Orange and purple sweet potatoes are loaded with a good number of antioxidants that help protect the body from harmful molecules that cause inflammation and damage DNA. This, in turn, protects the body from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They can prevent cancer

Eating sweet potatoes can help protect against various types of cancers. The compounds in sweet potatoes restrict the development of cancer cells. Test tube studies have shown that anthocyanins can prevent cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach.

They lower blood sugar

Despite its relatively high glycemic index, studies have shown that the regular intake of sweet potatoes can help lower blood sugar, thanks to the presence of dietary fiber. While fiber falls under carbohydrates, it is digested differently, compared to starchy and sugary forms of carbohydrates. Interestingly, insulin doesn’t process fiber (unlike other types which get turned into glucose), and it only passes through the digestive tract.

They promote healthy vision

Orange sweet potatoes are rich in a compound called beta-carotene, an antioxidant which transforms into vitamin A in the body. Adequate intake of vitamin A promotes eye health. Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to a particular type of blindness called xerophthalmia.

Sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. They are best prepared boiled but can also be baked, roasted, or steamed — they can even replace other carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and toast. (Related: Understanding the phytochemical and nutrient content of sweet potato flours from Vietnam.)

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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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