Epidemic: An infectious disease that attacks many people at the same time in the same geographical area.
Endemic: Disease that occurs continuously or in expected cycles in a population, with a certain number of cases expected for a given period. e.g. Influenza and the common cold.
Pandemic: A disease effecting the majority of the population of a large region, e.g. periodontal disease, or one that is epidemic at the same time in many different parts if the world.
There are 3 different strains of influenza virus:
|Influenza Strain A||This virus can still exchange genetic material with the extremely large number of avian viruses.|
|Influenza Strain BInfluenza Strain C||Entirely human viruses.|
Influenza type A
The exchange of the entire gene segments, called antigenic shift, happens when a tertiary host e.g. a pig is infected by both the Influenza A virus and one of the bird viruses. In some part of China and southeast Asia, pigs and domestic birds share indoor spaces with humans, creating the potential for the antigenic drifts.
Antigenic drifts have been observed to occur at irregular time intervals of at least 10 years. Influenza A infections arise in Asia and the antigenic shifts have been observed only in this type of Influenza that has the potential of causing pandemics.
On the surface of the influenza virus there are two different glycoproteins, hemagglututinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). These proteins allow the virus to attack and infect a susceptible host, triggering the host immunological responses. Differences in virus strains are thought to occur due to mutations of HA and NA called antigenic drifts.
Such mutations occur almost annually in the Southern Hemisphere, causing a new type of influenza A or B with the potential of starting an epidemic in the Northern Hemisphere.
Key points so far:
There are extremely large number of avian viruses.
In order for antigenic shift to occur, a tertiary host has to be infected with both Influenza Type A and an avian flu virus.
Antigenic drifts are a minor mutation change in the protein marker or antigen that occur from year to year in Southern Hemisphere. The type of yearly flu for vaccination is predicted from the antigenic drift.
What about the H5N1 BIRD FLU VIRUS?(2)
H5N1 is principally an avian disease, first seen in humans in Hong Kong in 1997.
Almost all human cases are thought to be contracted from birds.
Isolated cases of human-to-human transmission in Hong Kong and Vietnam, but none confirmed.
Birds are susceptible to flu just as humans are. There are 15 different types of avian flu viruses; H5 and H7 are amongst the most contagious. H5N1 is usually fatal in birds. A slight different form of the H5N1 strain has been detected in different countries, meaning that the H5N1 is not localized in southeast Asia.
Recently the bird strain H5N1 has been found in confirmed in Turkey and Romania and there is a concern for the health of domestic birds. Note that in Pakistan several cases of the H7 and H9 strains of bird flu in poultry were identified, but none of these viruses have been passed to humans.
Birds can carry many viruses, but good hygiene practices in raising poultry such as the isolation of domestic birds from wild birds might reduce the problem. Recall the word susceptibility when birds are raised in poor conditions, their immune system is weakened and they become more susceptible to avian flu.
So why all the hype about pandemic?
Bird flu was thought to infect birds only, but in Hong Kong in 1997 the first human cases were seen. Humans catch the disease through close contact with live infected birds. When a bird is infected, the virus is shed in their feces, which when dry turns into powder and can be inhaled.
Symptoms are similar to other types of flu – fever, malaise, sore throats, coughs and possibly conjunctivitis.
However, one case in Vietnam showed that the virus can affect all parts of the body. What was not reported in the media was the state of health of this person. As we know, susceptibility plays a massive role here.
This could mean that many illnesses, and even deaths, thought to have been caused by something else, may have been due to the bird flu virus.
So far, as of November 1, 62 people have died (3) of 122 cases of human flu in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
Reality check: SARS killed 800 people worldwide and infected 8,400 since it emerged in November 2002, that is 10%. Susceptibility plaid a role here too.
Fuel for the hype….(4)
1. One, yes I said only one case in Thailand, with a possible transmission of the virus where a girl could have caught the disease from her mother, who later died. I’m sorry for the girl, but again the media (and the scientists?) “forgot” to inform ushow this mother and daughter lived. Did they lived with a chicken in their house? How can we be sure that the girl caught the disease from the mother and not from the same dead chicken that the mother got it from? Incidentally, the girl survived the virus.
2. In 2004, two sisters died in Vietnam after possibly contracting bird flu from their brother who had died from an unidentified respiratory illness. So, how can an unidentified respiratory illness all of a sudden become the bird flu? Again it was not mentioned where these children lived, could they all have independently caught the avian flu from a household chicken? We do not know this, and I wonder if UK virology expert Professor John Oxford considered where the children lives when he said “these cases indicated the basic virus could be passed between humans, and predicted similar small clusters of cases would be seen again”. If we knew that the children caught the virus independently then there would be no case of avian flu transmission from person to person.
3. Another case in Hong Kong, this time a doctor, possibly caught the disease from a patient with H5N1 virus. This time however, we are informed that “it was not conclusively proved”.
4. Tamiflu (more later) has been used in Vietnam and one patient had become partially resistant to it.
Turn off the hype …(4)
- In Thailand the virus was passed to close relatives and it has not been stated that the patients had contracted the virus independently from the same infected bird(s) or if the infection did actually pass from person to person. Again, we do not know the state of health of the infected patients, nor the amount of virus they were infected with. Both of these factors play a crucial role in establishing the infection.
- In the cases reported, patients were infected with one of the avian flu viruses, but to have the avian pandemic the flu virus (Influenza Strain A) and the avian flu virus (Strain H5N1) together in the same host may mutate and a new virus may be produced. If another patient with Influenza strain A is infected with the new Avian virus H5N1 at the same time then the new mutating virus will become more virulent. In order for a pandemic to be triggered, the new mutated strain would have to get in close contact with a patient with an H5N1 virus many times, as each time the mutated virus will become more virulent. The statistical possibility for this to happen is very small. In fact it is a very rare event.Again, the susceptibility of the patient(s) and the amount of the virus that entered the body will play a role.
- A survivor of the bird flu (5) tells of his experience with the bird flu: “I’d just got back to Thai Binh, where I’m originally from, to visit my brothers. They threw a welcoming dinner where we had our favorite dish, ‘tiet canh’, which is made with chopped congealed raw duck blood and herbs”. The interesting aspect of this story is that only two people got sick one of them died while the other is telling the story. But what about the other participants at the banquet? We are not told how many people feasted on the raw duck blood.
- Some experts are making some sense as the veterinarian Butcher PhD from the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine who studied avian flu viruses since 1988. He states, “The emphasis of all my work has changed to dealing with this madness,” Butcher said Friday, while briefly back at his office on the UF campus in Gainesville,”Realistically, avian influenza is not a threat to people, but everywhere you go, it has turned into a circus.” (6) Confirming my suspicion Dr. Butcher states: (6)“There has yet to be a proven case in which one person is known to have passed the illness on to another”.”For it to become dangerous to humans, it has to go through a pretty significant genetic change. If you put this in perspective, it’s not going to happen. For a person to be infected now, it appears that the exposure level has to be astronomical,” Butcher said.
- Roche is the only pharmaceutical company that have a successful vaccine again the bird flu. The patent for Tamiflu is valid until 2012 and despite the prediction of over fifty million deaths, they do not keep the stock levels to meet the need. However, Roche is not willing to part with the patent rights and warned others of the danger of producing a generic version of the vaccine. During the second week of October the papers reported a surprising gain in Roche’s third quarter, despite a much lower projected profit reported earlier.
Conventional treatment of the Avian flu in humans:
The conventional treatment would include the use of Tamiflu and other drugs from the same family such as Relenza (zanamivir). However, we have seen earlier that to get a “super-virus” capable to triggering a pandemic, the original H5N1 must have a significant change in its genetic composition which is likely not to be stable and mutation may continue. Hence a drug designed for the H5N1 virus is most likely to be ineffective in treating the super-virus, which is a completely different virus altogether.
Further, it takes a minimum of 5-6 months for a drug company to produce an anti-viral vaccine after the start of the pandemic. To add to the problem, anti-viral medicines do not cure influenza. They cut down the transmission of the disease and somewhat reduced the symptoms and complications, including the rate of associated pneumonias, in those already infected.
Tamiflu does not come without side effects.,Tthe known side effects include but are not limited to:
Tamiflu side effects
Flu symptoms (12)
Further, Tamiflu’s safety and effectiveness have not been determined in people with chronic heart or lung disease, kidney failure, or in people with high-risk, underlying medical conditions. (11)
Other drugs such as Amantadine are now no longer useful. Despite being a drug for human influenza, Amantadine was given in large amounts to chickens in China. The results speak for themselves:
“Before 2000 almost no virus was resistant to the drug Amantadine. By 2004, 15 percent of influenza-A viruses collected in South Korea, 70 percent in Hong Kong and 74 percent in China were impervious. During the first six months of 2005, 15 percent of the influenza-A viruses in the United States were resistant, up from 2 percent just one year before. ” (9)
How about the Avian flu vaccine for humans?
The two studies were published early on-line by the British medical journal the Lancet because of their important implications for the coming flu season.
In one paper, international researchers analyzed all the data from patient studies on the flu vaccine performed worldwide in the past 37 years, and discovered that the vaccine showed at best “a modest” ability to prevent infection with influenza or its complications in elderly people. The same vaccine is used globally.
“The runaway 100 percent effectiveness that’s touted by proponents was nowhere to beseen,” said Tom Jefferson, lead scientist for the historical vaccine study. Jefferson is a Rome-based researcher with the Cochrane Vaccine Fields project, an international consortium of scientists who systematically review research data.
“There is a wild overestimation of the impact of these vaccines in the community,” he said. “In the case of a pandemic, we are unsure from the data whether these vaccines would work on the elderly.”
In the second paper, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they had found that influenza viruses, particularly those from the bird flu strain, had developed high rates of resistance to the only class of cheap anti-viral medicines — drugs that have been used for 30 years, mainly to treat flu once patients have caught the virus. (9)
What to do for the birds?
The spread of Avian flu is mostly from birds to birds. Infected birds shed flu virus in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. When susceptible birds are in contact with contaminated excretions or surfaces contaminated with excretions, they become infected.
Humans get infected when they are in intimate contact with infected poultry or surfaces contaminated with the virus.
There are two aspects to treating the birds. 1.) There are no rapid, massive and effective treatment modalities in conventional medicine for birds. 2.) Far more importance is given to the spread of illness to humans. Birds are considered better controlled by rapid destruction of all infected or exposed birds and proper disposal of carcasses. Sometimes millions of birds are destroyed in this manner. Proper quarantining and rigorous disinfection of farms are also necessary. Movement restrictions for live poultry, as in trade are another important control measure. This is implied both within and between countries to be effective. Vaccination of chicks is also effective.
For disinfection, heating to 56 degrees C for 3 hours or 60 degrees C for 30 minutes is best. Common disinfectants, such as formalin and iodine compounds are also found to be working. The virus survives at cool temperatures such as contaminated manure for at least three months. It can survive for up to four days in water, at 22 degrees C and more than 30 days at 0 degrees C. The virulence of the highly pathogenic form is so high that a single gram of contaminated manure can contain enough virus to infect 1 million birds.
Vaccination of poultry in farms is an option that could avoid the culling of entire flocks of chicken, turkeys, ducks etc, as we have all witnessed a few years ago in Abbotsford. However, at times there is some rather disturbing news, for example:
Vaccine may be linked to bird flu cases
The weak strain of avian influenza recently detected at more than a dozen farms in Ibaraki Prefecture may have been brought about by artificial contamination, including by the use of vaccines, according to a farm ministry panel. The use of vaccines to prevent bird flu is currently banned by law, and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said it would probe the matter further.
According to panel head Hiroshi Kida, a professor at Hokkaido University, the genetic makeup of the virus found at the Ibaraki farms was strikingly similar to that of a bird flu virus found in Guatemala and Mexico, too far for a migrating bird to carry into Japan. It is also different from other Central American strains of the virus previously found in other parts of Asia.
This led the panel to suspect that a vaccine developed using the Central American virus was brought into Japan and used on some birds, infecting the animals around them, he said.
The ministry has a stock of vaccines to be used in the event of a massive bird flu outbreak, but has banned its general use because vaccinated birds will develop the antibody and be indistinguishable from animals that have really come down with the disease.
The Japan Times: Sept. 3, 2005
… so what are the alternatives?
The following homeopathic remedies (in alphabetical order) are indicated for (but not limited to) the Avian flu:
Aconite, Arnica, Arsenicum album, Belladonna, Bryonia, Eupatorium, Euphrasia, Hepar sulph, Gelsemium, Kali bich., Sabadilla, Nux vomica, Pulsatilla, Phosphorus, Rhus tox and Sulphur.
The prescribed remedy and potency is determined on an individual basis and under the strict supervision of an experienced and qualified homeopath. (10)
However prevention is better than cure, so…
For common public (10)
- Avoid direct contact with wild and/or domestic birds especially in regions where bird flu is reported.
- Avoid drinking contaminated water, particularly when traveling.
- For those who have back yard poultry farms proper care should be taken in keeping the coop and surroundings areas clean. Special attention should be paid to disinfect water and feeding pots thoroughly and routinely. Seek advice from your veterinarian immediately if birds become sick and take appropriate action.
For commercial farmers
- In addition to the above, routine large scale disinfection of the facilities
- Proper disposal of droppings and other waste material
- If culling, dispose of carcasses in a safe manner, like by incineration
- Identify early signs of the bird flu.
For all people
If the Avian flu infection affects anyone, DO NOT PANIC. Go to your physician or homeopath. Ensure that the treatment does not cause more harm than the illness.
Poultry meat and eggs are safe to eat provided they are cooked properly, as the virus is easily destroyed by the heat of cooking.
Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Soapy water and detergents are the first line of defense. The Avian flu influenza virus is very sensitive to detergents that destroy their lipid layer. This layer is needed to enter cells of animals and therefore removing this layer, destroys the infectivity. The virus survives well in water and simple washing may assist the virus to enter into areas where it is picked up by other birds. Therefore any washing to remove contamination should always be with detergents (soapy water) or specific disinfectants.
The biggest danger is bird droppings. The virus likes moist, dirty conditions, so it is essential to thoroughly disinfect items that have been in contact with bird droppings — cages, shoes, clothes before working with poultry/entry to a place where poultry are kept. (13)
Learning from history:
The Use of Homeopathic medicines in the 1918 Influenza Epidemic
There has been much discussion about the merits or otherwise of Avian Flu anti-viral medicines in the media, but no discussion of the effectiveness of homeopathy in the treatment of influenza. History shows us that homeopathy was used by homeopathic physicians in the USA to treat patients during the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic. From information recorded by these doctors, homeopathic treatment was highly successful. In most cases one or two homeopathic medicines were needed. These are known as the “genus epidemicus” in an epidemic and become known through the careful observation of a number of influenza cases. It is difficult to speculate exactly what homeopathic remedies will work best in a possible Avian flu epidemic. However there are a number of known ‘flu remedies that may be useful e.g. Gelsemium, Bryonia, Arnica, Eupatorium perforatum, Arsenicum etc. In the 1918 epidemic Gelsemium and Bryonia were most commonly indicated according to the following extracts.
In 1921 W.A. Dewey MD., published a paper in the Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy entitled “Homeopathy in Influenza – A Chorus of Fifty in Harmony”. The following extracts are from this paper.
â€¢ In Philadelphia 26,795 cases of influenza treated by homeopathic physicians had a mortality rate of 1.05% compared with the conventional mortality rate of 30%.
â€¢ In Connecticut 30 physicians reported 6,602 cases with 55 deaths, (<1%).
â€¢ Dr. Roberts in Connecticut also reported 81 cases in the transport service all treated with homeopathic treatment and all recovered.
â€¢ In a factory in Chicago, Dr. Wieland reported influenza in 8000 workers with one death. All were treated with Gelsemium. He reports no aspirin was used and no vaccines.
â€¢ Dr Williams in Rhode Island reported no losses from influenza and a 2.1% loss in those that developed pneumonia. He observed that doctors using aspirin as the main treatment were having a 60% mortality in those patients that developed pneumonia.
â€¢ Dr. Sappington reports that from 1500 influenza cases recorded by the Homeopathic Medical Society of the District of Columbia only 15 died. Recoveries in the National Homeopathic Hospital was 100%
â€¢ In Ohio, Dr. McCann treated 1000 cases of influenza and had no losses. He says all credit must be given to homeopathy.
â€¢ Raymond Siedel decided to become a homeopathic doctor when he was a 10 year old delivery boy for a local homeopath. He said “I saw that people who were taking Aspirin were dying, about half those who were drinking a lot of whiskey were dying, and those that received homeopathic remedies were living.”
â€¢ It was generally observed by homeopaths in the US at the time that the use of Aspirin was a major cause of deaths during the influenza epidemic. Its indirect action came through the fact that aspirin was taken until prostration resulted and the patient developed pneumonia.
â€¢ In Kentucky Dr. Huff wrote ” I almost invariably gave (homeopathic medicines) Gelsemium or Bryonia. I hardly ever lost a case if I got there first, unless the patient had been sent to a drug store and bought Aspirin, in which event I was likely to have a case of pneumonia on my hands.”
Reference – courtesy:
Winston, J “The Faces of Homeopathy” Great Auk Publishing 1999
Ms. Angela Hair, NZ representative, WHAC.
- The possibility that the Avian flu virus will affect humans is a rare event.
- As of today (Nov 3, 2005) 122 people have been infected. Of these 62 have died.
- All patients that had an avian flu infection have been in very close contact with body fluids and wastes of infected birds.
- Although it is a rare possibility, if Influenza virus Strain A is present at the same time in the same host with an (H5N1), the virus may develop.
- Conventional vaccination for the human flu in general has been found a lot less effective than first thought.
- A vaccine for the Avian Flu in humans will not be ready in time. To create a vaccine for a specific organism, the organism must be isolated, and by theN people would already be sick. It takes 5-6 months to develop a vaccine.
- To prevent becoming sick with the Avian flu, wash hands properly and frequently, avoid contaminated water, cook properly eggs and poultry meats, keep away from contaminated birds and their wastes.
- The real damage from the Avian flu is economical due to the culling of birds when infected birds are found in an area.
- The stockpiling of drugs like Tamiflu may turnout to be a waste of public funds as the drug side effects are very similar to the flu and of course Tamiflu was designed for the Influenza Strain A and B only, hence it would not be effective in case of Avian flu in the population.
- The solution: learn from history. Homeopathy has a proven record of success in case of epidemics and no other form of medicine can equal such a record.
1) Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 1997, 19th Eds, Davis F.A. COMPANY, Philadelphia
9) Rosenthal e. (2005) studies question effectiveness of flu treatment. International Hearld Tribune. Wed September 21, 2005.