Straight Talk about Swine Flu (Last updated 20 July 2009)
- What is swine flu?
- Why is there a pig connection?
- What are the latest figures on infections and deaths?
- How dangerous is swine flu?
- Who is most at risk?
- Are the obese at greater risk?
- What do the symptoms of swine flu look like?
- For how long is a person contagious?
- What are the danger symptoms to watch for in children?
- What are the danger symptoms to watch for in adults?
- How can I protect myself and my family from swine flu?
- What should I do if I already have swine flu?
- What about antiviral medications – do they cause any problems?
- Can homeopathy offer anything to replace antiviral medications?
- The coming flu vaccine – is there anything we should be aware of?
- How successful is homeopathy at managing flu-like symptoms?
- Ten homeopathic remedies that have been used in the treatment and prevention of flu
- How can I find other remedies that match my flu-like symptoms?
- Is there further information?
What is swine flu?
Swine flu is the latest of a long line of influenza viruses that have circled the world each winter. What makes this swine flu different to previous viruses is that it is a completely new strain for which we have no immunity, and unlike past influenzas, it sems to hit the young and healthy much harder than the elderly. As a result, health authorities are concerned that this particular flu strain has the potential to be more dangerous than many previous flu viruses.
Why is there a pig connection?
Pigs are like sponges for flu viruses – they are always soaking them up. And flu viruses love pigs. Different strains of flu frequently mix and mutate within pigs, but usually they don’t jump the species barrier.
All that changed in April this year (2009) though when three different flu viruses – two from pigs, one from the bird, and one from a human – mixed their genes in some Mexican pigs to produce a completely new virus now known as the swine flu, or A(H1N1).
This virus then jumped from the pig population into surrounding humans and despite containment measures, quickly started to spread from one person to another. Within one week, swine flu had officially infected 331 people, killed 9, and spread to 11 countries. The unofficial figures were said to be much higher.
What are the latest figures on infections and deaths?
As of the 11 June, Swine Flu was officially classified as a level 6 pandemic (the highest grading) by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Fortunately, at present it appears to be relatively mild pandemic with loss of life being no greater than what has occurred during past flu seasons.
As of 26 June, over 80 countries have officially reported 59,814 cases of swine flu and 263 deaths. The true numbers are probably greater than these however as suspected cases wait several days before an accurate diagnosis or verification can be made.
So far, and for unknown reasons, the majority of deaths (116), especially early in the outbreak, have occurred in Mexico. Of those from other countries, most involved individuals who were already unwell from another health complaint.
(Note: Future updates to this section of the article will be irregular over coming months unless the swine flu intensifies or changes its pattern.)
How dangerous is swine flu?
At the time of this article, the swine flu has been less deadly than scientists feared at its onset. Most people report that is either similar to or milder than previous flu infections.
The main concern from the scientists is that this virus will become more virulent and deadly with the passage of time – something that has frequently occurred during past epidemics of various diseases.
In the case of A(H1N1), Canadian scientists have already confirmed that it has jumped from humans back into pigs in Alberta. As swine are a natural mixing vessel for flu it is feared that an even deadlier flu virus will re-emerge to infect humans in the future.
Who is most at risk?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in America state that almost two-thirds of swine-flu victims so far are between the ages of five and 24, whereas only 1% of those over 65 have been affected. This is the opposite of what is normally expected; usually it is the elderly who die in their thousands each year from the effects of seasonal influenza. The unexpected resilience of the elderly this year may be from a past exposure to a similar flu virus that has left them with some degree of immunity – but the reason why they have been largely unaffected is still not clear. The other high risk group for A(H1N1) infection appears to be those who are pregnant.
Are the overweight at greater risk?
Bloomberg reports: “Doctors tracking the pandemic say they see a pattern in hospital reports from Glasgow to Melbourne and from Santiago to New York. People infected with the bug who have a body mass index greater than 40, deemed morbidly obese, suffer respiratory complications that are harder to treat and can be fatal.” More of this story can be read here.
What do the symptoms of swine flu look like?
Swine flu symptoms are similar to those of previous flus. They include:
- Muscle and joint pain,
- High fever,
- Loss of appetite,
- Runny nose,
Some sufferers have also had symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
For how long is a person contagious?
Adults are infectious during the flu’s incubation period and for 7 days following the onset of symptoms; children may be infectious for up to 10 or more days. The incubation period for swine flu is not yet known but is expected to be similar to that of other influenzas which is 1 – 4 days.
What are the danger symptoms to watch for in children?
If your child has any of the following, please seek the advice of your healthcare professional:
- Rapid breathing,
- Bluish skin,
- Lack of thirst with dry lips and mouth or sunken fontanelles (soft spots in the skull),
- Difficult to wake,
- Not wanting to respond or be held,
- Severe irritability,
- Fever with a rash,
- Worsening cough,
- Worsening of any underlying condition
What are the danger symptoms to watch for in adults?
If you or another adult has any of the following, please seek the advice of your healthcare professional:
- Dizziness or confusion,
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing,
- Severe or persistent vomiting,
- Pressure or pain in abdomen or chest,
- Worsening of any underlying condition.
How can I protect myself and my family from swine flu?
Swine flu spreads the same way as every other cold and flu does – from the respiratory secretions of an already infected person. Speaking, coughing, sneezing, and blowing the nose allows the virus to escape into the environment where it then reinfects others through the mucus membranes of their eyes, nose, or mouth. To reduce the risk of infection:
- Avoid close contact with people who might be ill,
- Minimise the time spent in crowded areas such as shops,
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or rub them with an antibiotic hand cream or gel. (A few drops of teatree or lavender oil added to your hand cream will have a strong antibiotic effect that is far less toxic than many of the synthetic chemicals added to commercial rubs.)
- Note that while masks may help to control the spread of flu, they are not particularly effective at protecting you from it. Masks become moist within 10 minutes of use making them ideal breeding grounds for the flu virus and other bacteria.
- Resist touching your eyes, mouth, and nose as these are the entry points by which the virus gets into your body,
- Improve the airflow in your living space by opening windows and doors;
- Practise healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active,
- Once the ‘genus epidemicus’ remedies (the remedies that best match the characteristic symptoms of the circulating flu) are known, use one of them for their preventative effects.
What should I do if I already have swine flu?
- Stay at home so that you don’t infect others,
- Rest and drink plenty of fluids,
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and dispose of tissues carefully,
- Cleanse your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing and sneezing, or use an antibacterial hand rub,
- Use a mask to contain the spread of droplets when you are around other people. It must be fitted correctly to be effective,
- Contact your healthcare professional before travelling to a healthcare facility in case they would like you to take extra precautions,
- Look to homeopathy for the treatment of your flu symptoms – it is safe, gentle, and rapid.
What about antiviral medications – do they cause any problems?
Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) are two antiviral drugs that help reduce seasonal flu symptoms if they are commenced within the first two days of infection. It is not yet known if they are effective against the swine flu. Unfortunately, Tamiflu and Relenza also have serious side-effects.
Tamiflu has been linked to episodes of delirium, hallucinations, and suicidal attempts in people, especially children. Its safety for children under one year of age is unknown and boxes of Tamiflu now have to carry a warning label.
Tamiflu should only be prescribed with special care, or not at all if the person:
- is over 65 years of age
- is allergic or sensitive to or has had a reaction to any of the ingredients in the medicine
- is on dialysis
- is seriously ill or are in an unstable medical condition
- has a weakened immune system
- has heart problems
- has kidney problems
- has breathing problems
- has fructose intolerance
Relenza is also associated with serious side-effects. It can cause bronchospasm (sudden tightening of the airways). If the person suffers from asthma or any other disease that affects their airways, they are advised to use their inhalers before each dose of Relenza and to keep a fast-acting bronchodilator with them for emergency use in case of bronchospasm. Relenza’s safety for children under the age of 5 is not fully known.
Relenza should be prescribed with special care, or not at all, if the patient:
- is aged over 65 years of age
- is a resident of a nursing home
- has a weakened immune system
- is allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients in the medicine
- is seriously ill or in an unstable medical condition
- has breathing problems
- has asthma
- has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- has galactose intolerance
- has glucose-galactose malabsorption problems
- has Lapp lactase deficiency
Can homeopathy offer anything to replace antiviral medications?
No matter which strain is the cause, Homeopathy has many remedies that will either prevent or treat a wide range of flu symptoms when prescribed according to symptom similarity. While some of these remedies are discussed in more detail toward the end of these questions it is probably appropriate to draw attention to one particular remedy now.
Oscillococcinum (Oscillo for short) is the brand name of a potentised remedy, Anas barbariae. While it cannot strictly be strictly called a homeopathic remedy, several studies have shown that it relieves the symptoms of flu and shortens its life if prescribed within the first 48 hours – and it does this without any of the side-effects associated with antivirals such as Tamiflu and Relenza. Oscillo is now the largest selling flu remedy each winter in France where it is prescribed by homeopaths and doctors alike. There are a few points about Oscillo to keep in mind though:
- Oscillo is most effective if taken in the first 48 hours of symptom onset and less effective if taken after this time.
- Oscillo is most effective for those 30 years and younger but less effective for those older.
- Studies have shown that Oscillo does not have a preventative effect for the flu so it should not be used as a prophylactic.
- While Oscillo can be helpful and is quite safe, it is still a clumsy ‘shot-gun’ approach. Any homeopathic remedy that closely matches the symptoms of the sufferer will be effective – and sometimes more effective – than Oscillo. Unlike Oscillo, they will also work at any age or any stage. The homeopathic remedies that best match the common symptoms of a particular epidemic (the so-called “genus epidemicus” remedies) will also produce a protective effect against that flu and so will be the best ones to use for prophylaxis (protection).
The coming flu vaccine – is there anything we should be aware of?
Manufacturers are already working on a vaccine for swine flu and hope to have stocks available from October 2009. But flu vaccines have always had a chequered history.
In 1976 during a swine flu scare not unlike this one, America rushed a vaccine into production and commenced a massive campaign to vaccinate people. Dozens of Americans died within 48 hours of receiving the vaccine and hundreds more reported serious side effects including paralysis. Two months later the vaccine had to be withdrawn from the market.
Today, health authorities and vaccine watchdog groups are warning the US administration that fast-tracking this current vaccine could have the same disastrous consequences if not enough time is spent testing its safety before its release.
There is also a question mark over the effectiveness of flu vaccines for the over 70 age group. A study published in August 2008 by the Lancet medical journal revealed there was no evidence to show that seniors, who normally account for more than 75% of all flu deaths, were protected by flu vaccines.
Another concern is the issue of mercury. It is a powerful neurotoxin linked to autism, learning difficulties and behavioural problems in children and many vaccines still contain it. While most mercury has now been removed from the childhood vaccines, this has not been the the case for many of the flu vaccines. Watchdog groups are concerned that this new vaccine will also contain mercury that once again will be injected into our developing infants and children.
Finally, there is no way of knowing for sure if the coming vaccine will be effective against swine flu until it is released into the market place. Should it be unsuccessful it will then take another six months or more before a new vaccine can be prepared.
Update 1: Untested Vaccines – Children First!
In a move that is creating a backlash across the UK, British children will be among the first to receive an untested swine flu vaccine.
And those in other countries will follow.
The British Independent reports:
“The first doses of swine flu vaccine will be given to the public before full data on its safety and effectiveness become available, doctors confirmed yesterday.” …
“A spokesman for the EMEA said the first samples of the fully functional pandemic vaccine were expected by the end of July and a decision on whether to approve them would be taken within five days. Trials involving 200 to 400 patients would be conducted, but the vaccine would be made available for use by the NHS before the results came in.”
“What the manufacturers will be submitting will not have any clinical trial data. We expect the interim adult data from September and the first paediatric data from October onwards,” he said.
More of this report can be read here.
Update 2: Vaccines (and vaccine producers) may be more dangerous than swine flu
Dr Russell Blaylock reports: … “What is terrifying is that these pandemic vaccines contain ingredients, called immune adjuvants that a number of studies have shown cause devastating autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus.”
To read about the ingredients in the swine flu vaccines and the concerning history of the pharmaceutical companies producing them, click here.
How successful is homeopathy at managing flu symptoms?
Homeopathy is well equipped to deal with the symptoms of swine flu, bird flu, or any other flu for that matter. Each winter it is used around the world by homeopaths and those familiar with homeopathy to do just that. Accounts and records on how it performed during the 1918 pandemic that killed millions can be found at this link .
To get the best from homeopathy you must know how to use it. The following pointers will help you on your way.
The common symptoms of swine flu include weakness, high fever, loss of appetite, runny nose, cough, headache, muscle and joint pains, but this information is not enough to choose the homeopathic remedy that will help – much more detail is needed.
For example, with the headache alone it is important to know if it is: left or right sided; throbbing, crushing, or piercing; better for sitting or lying; worsened by light or noise; or accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Additional information such as this helps us to understand each person’s unique experience of the flu and pinpoint the particular remedy that that is suited to them – the one that best matches those unique symptoms.
Should you find it difficult to sort through your own symptoms, ABC Homeopathy has an online remedy finder that can help. Remedies are also available for purchase through our online shop .
Once you have chosen your remedy you can find out how often you should take a dose by reading this .
Armed with the above information, let’s now look at ten of the more frequently prescribed remedies for flu.
Ten homoeopathic remedies used in the treatment or prevention of flu – what are they?
1. Aconite Napellus (Acon.)
Aconite is a remedy most often needed during the very first stage of flu. Symptoms come on quickly, often alarmingly, and the person is unusually restless and anxious. Symptoms may start after exposure to dry, cold wind. Shivering and cold waves can pass through the body with the fever. The face may be flushed with constricted pupils.
2. Anas barbariae (Anas-b.)
This remedy, frequently sold under the brand name of Oscillococcinum, is prepared from the livers of migrating geese that are often carriers for flu viruses. While not a traditional homeopathic remedy, research has shown that it is helpful in the first 24 to 48 hours for younger age groups but less helpful after this time, or for older people. Research has also shown that it is not an effective prophylactic (preventative). Anas-b is a good choice when a better matching remedy cannot be found.
3. Arsenicum Album (Ars)
The symptoms of an Arsenicum flu consist of marked restlessness and anxiety, hot face and cold body. The restlessness can lead to exhaustion and collapse. Vomiting and diarrhoea may also be present, withing chills and rigor follow the fever. The patient will be thirsty for small sips of water and want constant company. They may fear they will die.
4. Belladonna (Bell.)
A Belladonna type of flu usually starts suddenly, often frighteningly. The face will be hot, the skin red, the eyes glazed, and the pupils possibly dilated. The patient may complain of a throbbing headache and feel worse for motion and jarring, or for being bumped. The fever can be worryingly high but with little or no thirst. Hands and feet are icy cold even though the body is hot. There may also be delirium with the fever. All senses are over-sensitive so the patient feels worse for light, being touched, and noise. Symptoms often worsen at 3pm.
5. Bryonia Alba (Bry.)
Bryonia flus are gradual rather than sudden in onset and progress slowly. The patient is irritable, does not want to answer, and prefers to be left alone. All symptoms, such as severely aching muscles or joints, are worse for movement and better for rest and being still. The patient will be very thirsty for large amounts of water at long intervals. They also have dry skin, a coated tongue, cracked lips, or a left-sided headache. During the delirium of the fever, they may particularly ask to go home even though already there.
6. Eupatorium Perfoliatum (Eup-per.)
Influenza with a very high fever and severe aching in the muscles and the bones. The patient feels as if their bones are breaking or broken. They will be chilly, sometimes with rigors (shaking) and may desire cold drinks even though they will be chilled by them. They can be thirsty just before the chill and have a severe headache as the fever peaks. Symptoms often worsen between 7 to 9am.
7. Gelsemium (Gels.)
Gelsemium is one of the most commonly needed flu remedies. Symptoms develop gradually. The patient feels heavy, weak, lethargic, and dull. The weakness is accompanied by trembling.
Limbs ache and shivers may run up and down the spine. They usually have a heavy headache that starts in the back of the head and radiates to the forehead. The headache may be relieved by passing urine. Eyelids will droop and there will be weakness and heaviness of the head and limbs.
8. Nux vomica (Nux-v.)
The person needing Nux vomica for their flu will be sensitive, irritable, and snappy. They will be extremely sensitive to draughts and the cold – even the slightest motion of air as they move under the bed-covers will create a chill and rigors (shaking). They will be easily irritated and bothered by light and noise. Insomnia can be a problem and symptoms are worse in the morning.
9. Pyrogenium (Pyrog.)
Flus with rapidly changing high fevers. Marked restlessness during the fever. The patient will complain of an aching body and that the bed feels too hard. They can have a high pulse with a low temperature or a high temperature with a low pulse.
10. Rhus toxicodendron (Rhus-t.)
The Rhus-t flu consist of restlessness and aching limbs in which the patient must move almost constantly to ease pain, even when trying to sleep. The joints can feel stiff. The flu may be triggered by, or worsened by cold and damp. The fever is often preceded by a prolonged chilly stage and can be accompanied by fever blisters or cold sores on or around the lips.
Update: Phosphorus (Phos.) also proving to be useful (20.07.09)
For those whose flu symptoms involve vomiting or diarrhoea, Phosphorus is proving to be a helpful remedy when other symptoms supporting its use are also present. Typical Phosphorus symptoms include:
Anxious. Fearful of being alone – desire for company. Flu symptoms with nausea and/or vomiting. Diarrhoea may be present. Vomit or expectoration may contain blood. Burning pains throughout body, especially in chest, throat, nose, stomach, or rectum. Desire for large amounts of cold water that may be vomited as soon as it warms in the stomach. Lungs congested and breathing difficult. Pneumonia may develop. Prefers to lie on right side – dislikes lying on the left. Exhaustion and weakness with the flu – sometimes restlessness is present.
How can I find other remedies that match my flu symptoms?
Homeopathy has many more remedies that are used for flu prevention and treatment, depending on the unique symptoms of the particular flu and sufferer. To find other remedies may be of use for you, visit ABC Homeopathy where you can enter your symptoms into an online remedy finder.
Once you have chosen your remedy you can also find out how often you should take a dose by reading this .