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Cockroach Farming in China

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The featured video, produced by the South China Morning Post, opens with these words: “If cockroaches make you uncomfortable … this could be your worst nightmare.” Indeed. Most of us would do almost anything to avoid a daily work environment that involves contact with millions of teeming roaches. In China, however, cockroaches are big business.

A number of Chinese cities contending with explosive population growth are finding cockroaches to be a helpful solution to the ever-increasing problem of food waste disposal. With landfills approaching capacity in some areas, it’s roaches to the rescue.

Not only do these pesky insects eat food scraps, but they also are a source of animal feed and an ingredient in some health and beauty products, as well as medicines. Though you may find it hard to believe, cockroach breeding farms in China are the real deal.

Roaches to the Rescue: China’s Unusual Urban Waste Disposal System

Cockroaches are big business in China, where, according to Reuters, teeming colonies of them are entrusted with the serious job of devouring tons of kitchen waste.1 Though the thought of millions of cockroaches together in one location sounds like something from a horror movie, it is actually the foundation of an innovative urban waste disposal system.

The goal: Reduce the amount of food-related garbage deposited in landfills. The issue of food waste is particularly problematic in large Chinese cities with rapidly expanding populations. Because roaches have voracious appetites and are easy to house, they are, it seems, the perfect match for China’s garbage problem.

These so-called cockroach farms are maintained in humid, near-dark conditions, which are ideal for the insects. When the bugs eventually die, they are usually transformed into animal feed. On the outskirts of Jinan, for example, the capital of eastern Shandong province, a billion cockroaches are being fed about 50 metric tons of kitchen waste a day.

That’s an amount equivalent in weight to seven elephants. With respect to how the garbage makes its way to the roaches, Reuters states:2

“The waste arrives before daybreak at the plant run by Shandong Qiaobin Agricultural Technology Co., where it is fed through pipes to cockroaches in their cells. Shandong Qiaobin plans to set up three more such plants next year, aiming to process a third of the kitchen waste produced by Jinan, home to about 7 million people.”

While some people despise cockroaches and others are disgusted by them, Li Yanrong, general manager of Shandong Qiaobin, sees these hardy insects only for their beneficial qualities. In 2017, Li told China Daily:3

“We spent six years doing research into using cockroaches after finding that they can feed on kitchen waste and create no pollutants. Using cockroaches to deal with kitchen waste is good for our country and for business. Social problems created by kitchen waste will be eradicated.”

Li claims cockroaches are able and willing to devour almost anything. He says they can consume up to 5 percent of their body weight every day. “Cockroaches have been eating plants and organic matter since hundreds of millions of years ago,” he said. “They are experts in waste composting.”4

Cockroaches Picking Up Where Pigs Left Off After Swine Fever Outbreak

Li is not the only one enthused about roaches. “Cockroaches are a biotechnological pathway for the converting and processing of kitchen waste,” says Liu Yusheng, president of Shandong Insect Industry Association and entomology professor at Shandong Agricultural University.5

This is particularly the case because it’s currently illegal to feed human food waste to pigs in China. Roaches have come to the forefront, in part, due to the Chinese nationwide ban on using food waste for pig feed.6 That ban, which has fueled the growth of the cockroach industry, came about as a result of African swine fever outbreaks first detected in August 2018.7

In October 2018, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued a statement saying, “After the provinces with outbreaks and neighboring provinces completely banned feeding of kitchen waste to pigs, the epidemic was greatly reduced, which fully demonstrates the importance of completely prohibiting the feeding of waste [to pigs].”8

The industry is primed to grow even more as a result of the new laws around pigs and food waste. In the past three years, Liu notes the number of cockroach farmers in Shandong alone has tripled to about 400. “There have been huge developments in cockroach breeding and research in the past few years,” said Liu.9

Novel Uses for Cockroaches Include Health and Beauty Applications

Beyond eating waste, cockroaches are valued for other reasons, including their eggs. Li told China Daily his company can earn 36.5 million yuan ($5.3 million) a year by selling protein feed produced from cockroach eggs.10 “A cockroach begins laying eggs when it is 4 months old. It lays one egg each week and can lay eggs for eight months,” Li said.11

In addition, roaches are being considered for their potential usefulness in health and beauty products and medications. As presented in the featured video, in Sichuan, a privately held company called Gooddoctor Pharmaceutical Research, established in 1998, is raising about 6 billion cockroaches.

Geng Funeng, president of Gooddoctor, who appears in the video, says he hopes the international science community will one day recognize the value of roaches for medicine.

“Insects are a complete and living organism,” Geng states in the video. He told the Sydney Morning Herald he personally eats 10 of them a day.12 “They contain multiple compounds to benefit our health,” he added. “I think the problems in our lives can be better solved with living solutions.”

Beyond the use of cockroaches in medications, researchers at Gooddoctor are also investigating the possibility of using roach extracts in beauty masks, diet pills and even hair-loss treatments.13 Another source says it can be used to treat diabetic ulcers and severe skin wounds.14

“The essence of cockroach is good for curing oral and peptic ulcers, skin wounds and even stomach cancer,” asserts Wen Jianguo, manager of Gooddoctor’s cockroach facility.15 According to Reuters, “At Gooddoctor, when cockroaches reach the end of their life span of about six months, they are blasted by steam, washed and dried, before being sent to a huge nutrient extraction tank.”16

“They really are a miracle drug,” Liu added. “They can cure a number of ailments and they work much faster than other medicine.”17 In 2013, Liu told The Telegraph a cream made from powdered cockroaches had been used in some Chinese hospitals as a treatment for burns and for cosmetic facial masks in Korea.18

Beyond that, The Telegraph reported a syrup invented by a drug manufacturer in Sichuan promises to cure duodenal ulcers, gastroenteritis and pulmonary tuberculosis.19 “China has the problem of an aging population,” said Liu. “So, we are trying to find new medicines for older people, and these are generally cheaper than Western medicine.”20

Cockroaches Used to Feed Chickens and Humans

At Shandong Qiaobin, Li and his employees bake and mill dead cockroaches into high-protein powder that is added to chicken feed. He claims the powder has been found to “reduce body fat and boost immunity in the 1,000-plus chickens he has raised.”21

The South China Morning Post calls out the high protein content of cockroaches, suggesting they can be useful as food not just for animals, but humans as well.22 Consumer Reports notes the use of insect protein in energy bars and other food items sold in the U.S. In a 2014 review of such products, they stated:23

“[T]he cricket products popping up on store shelves in the U.S. don’t contain insects that are rounded up in the wild. These critters are raised on domestic cricket farms, where they are fed a grain-based diet. They’re dried or roasted and then milled into a fine flour. About 40 crickets are packed into an average snack bar.”

According to Liu, restaurants in major cockroach-farming provinces like Shandong, Sichuan and Yunnan already sell cockroach dishes for human consumption.24 Very often, he notes, molting cockroaches are seasoned with salt or spices and then deep-fried or stir-fried.

Although nobody has made a commercial venture selling edible cockroaches on a large scale, Liu said he believes businesses will soon make the move. “They can easily mill the molting cockroaches and make flour with them,” he said.25

Given the increasing interest in insects as food, in May 2018, the 2nd International Conference “Insects to Feed the World” was held in China to discuss the role of insects in helping to sustain human life and promote nutrition.26

In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (U.N.) published a report suggesting people start eating insects as a possible solution to global food shortages.27 As for the types of insects most commonly eaten for food, the U.N. notes the following breakdown:28





Beetles (Coleoptera) — 31 percent

Caterpillars (Lepidoptera) — 18 percent

Bees, wasps and ants (Hymenoptera) — 14 percent

Grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (Orthoptera) — 13 percent

Cicadas, leafhoppers, planthoppers, scale insects and true bugs (Hemiptera) — 10 percent

Termites (Isoptera, also known as Blattodea) — 3 percent

Dragonflies (Odonata) — 3 percent

Flies (Diptera) — 2 percent

Other orders — 5 percent


As members of the same order as termites, cockroaches rank No. 6 on the list of most commonly eaten insects. You can learn more about the U.N. report by checking out my article “Eat Insects, Save the World.”

Speaking of roaches as a food source, more intriguing still is the notion of cockroach milk as a potential super food. Yes, that’s right, cockroach milk. A certain type of cockroach (Diploptera punctata), found mostly in the Pacific Islands, is the main source of this bug beverage.

A 2016 study29,30 from India asserts cockroach milk contains more than three times as much energy as cow’s milk. That said, the researchers indicated there is a lack of evidence roach milk is safe for human consumption, so further investigation is needed.

To learn more about this, you may want to read my article “Cockroach Milk — The Most Nutritious?” Roach milk aside, the potential for other roach-inspired food products has captured the interest of at least one cockroach farmer in Sichuan province’s rural Yibin city.

He sells about 22 pounds of cockroaches a month to two local restaurants, where they are used in various dishes. Says Li Bingcai:31

“I plan to produce food products like cockroach meatballs and cockroach flour in two years. I’ve always wanted to make food products from the beginning. People were scared of [cockroaches] at first, but now so many are eating them. The taste is special and they are full of protein.”

Cockroaches Are a Lucrative Business in China

While it is clear there is money to be made across the board with cockroaches and cockroach breeding farms in China, it seems operations focused on using roach extracts for medicinal purposes are among the most lucrative.

As reported by The Telegraph,32 Wang Fuming operates a cockroach farm in China’s Shandong province, where he houses more than 22 million of the insects in concrete bunkers in the suburbs of Jinan. Wang raises the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) exclusively and sells his output to pharmaceutical companies for top dollar.

Previously, Wang says he bred a particular type of wingless, flightless cockroach (Eupolyphaga sinensis) whose dried body is prized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

The increases in demand for the American cockroach are such that from 2011 to 2013 he claims to have quintupled production to more than 100 tons a year. “There are hundreds of species of cockroaches, but only this one has any medicinal value,” says Wang.”33

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Gooddoctor’s 2017 sales amounted to 6.3 billion Chinese yuan ($914 million). Their best seller, worth $1 billion yuan ($145 million), was a cockroach-containing “Recovery New Potion” that can be consumed orally or used on your skin.

While using legions of cockroaches as waste composters or as food and medicine continues to make news in China, most people in the U.S. and other Western nations still consider this insect as nothing more than an unwanted pest.

Unless you are looking to shock your family or friends by eating cockroaches, I recommend waiting for researchers in China and elsewhere to further develop the science around how cockroaches may benefit human health.

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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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