Utne Blogs > Science and Technology

Avoiding the Flu

by Kari Volkmann-Carlsen 


Tags: Health, Google Flu Trends, influenza, flu shot, natural flu remedies, vaccines,

The Flu

It’s flu season again—one more reason for Google to make a new techno-gadget. Their Flu Trends tracking system can estimate flu levels one to two weeks faster than the government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to Google, making it one of the fastest indicators of who’s blue with the flu.

The numbers are on the rise now, and it’s no coincidence that I suddenly find myself bombarded at the grocery store by nice, white-jacketed people eager to poke a needle into my arm. Flu season brings flu vaccinations, and people are faced again with the choice to shoot up or brave the maelstrom of infectious disease. Here’s a little guide to help you make the decision that suits you best.

The CDC advises a flu vaccination shot for “anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu,” but particularly for children, pregnant women, people older than 50, and health care professionals or those living in nursing homes. Interestingly, nearly 60 percent of health workers don’t get the shot, reports USA Today. One nurse explained that she avoids it because the only time she got sick with the flu was when she got vaccinated. Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University hopes to stifle stories like this one, which he says have created a wide-spread myth about the transmittance of the flu through the vaccine.

Many in the world of alternative health still remain wary about the shot. Natural Solutions reported in 2006 that the vaccination has myriad antibiotics and additives, such as formaldehyde, gelatin, and thimerosal, an organic form of mercury. They recommend alternative methods of preventing the flu, including their 5 homeopathic remedies, outlined in an online-exclusive accompanying their article “Sidestep the Sniffles.” Yoga Journal also offers a few suggestions, ranging from bolstering your immunity with the Ayurvedic herbs ashwaganda and turmeric, or meditating to reduce stress.

The societal upshot to getting immunized is that you prevent yourself from being a transmitter. Unvaccinated people, even those who never come down with the flu, may spread the disease to others. For this reason, Schaffner told USA Today that it is a professional responsibility for health care workers to get the shot. If your workplace or child's school has not made it mandatory to get vaccinated, however, the decision is yours to make.

Image by Heliøs, licensed under Creative Commons. 

k
10/22/2010 8:05:13 AM

I am a little disappointed that even a recognised alternative news magazine like UTNE (one of my favorites) seems to ignore (or have missed) the big "controversy" regarding efficency of flu vaccines. There is hard evidence that flu vaccines do not make sense or work for many if not most people in practice and the elderly in particular. In a nutshell: The motivation for "simplified" testing is of course the big money for the vaccine manufacturers and their share holders who also sponsor not only the development but also the "testing". Simple placebo tests have actually been done but they can't explain why flu vaccines even reduce mortality risks outside the flu season by the same factor (1.6) - when there is no flu virus around! The answer seems to lie in the selection of volunteers for the test- they seem to be healthier than in a real life distribution of people. In other words, many vaccines with less than 60% reduction-of-death-rate in traditional tests probably should not be sold at all. Vaccination "works" (they can produce enough antibodies) mostly for those who would not likely become sick anyway. This discovery was not very warmly received and of course - widely - ignored: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/11/does-the-vaccine-matter/7723/ by Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer or the medical papers on: http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/2/337.abstract especially by Lisa Jack


toni bark m.d., l.e.e.d.ap
1/5/2009 1:29:57 PM

As a practicing MD, I am constantly amazed at the misinformation put out there by big Pharma. the flu vaccines have NOT gone through placebo controlled clinical trials. In addition, the majority of clinical studies show the vaccine to NOT be effective. look at annals of Pediatrics last year. the vaccine was inefective in this study which looked specifically at children ages 2mos-6yrs. another study looking at geriatric population over 71 yrs again found no efficacy. All flu injectable flu vaccines contain formaldehyde (a carcinogen), and either methyl mercury or aluminum. both problematic and toxic to the neuro system. these vaccines are being pushed by many fellow collegues who are clueless to this history. do the investigative reporting Toni Bark MD, LEED Chicago


kari volkmann-carlsen
11/19/2008 12:36:46 PM

Hi Anne, I should have clarified that the flu shot cannot be transferred, as it is an injection of an inactivated virus. Thank you very much for pointing out that the nasal flu vaccine (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine or LAIV) does have the potential to transfer the flu, since it is a live attenuated virus. According to the CDC, it is rare for people who get the LAIV to transmit the flu to others (at a rate of 0.6%-2.4%), but those who are in contact with people with severely weakened immune systems should not take it. See http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/nasalspray.htm. Thanks for sharing that information!


annes
11/13/2008 1:57:39 PM

"The societal upshot to getting immunized is that you prevent yourself from being a transmitter. " Wrong. If you get the nasal flu vaccine, it sheds for weeks, so you actually are a transmitter. Check out the CDC website.