Smorgasbord Health Column – The upcoming Flu Season in the news and getting prepared

Certainly for those considered to be in the vulnerable groups in our society… the elderly, those with compromised immune system and those in jobs that bring them into contact with the virus, it is time to be thinking about vaccinations as we move into September.

There have been a number of articles on the subject of this year’s flu season that I think it is worth you while to check out. I will also repeat the usual annual influenza information after the links.

The Flu Vaccination delays and the 2019 – 2020 flu season supply.

While we now think that flu vaccines are delayed if we don’t start seeing them in August, it is important to remember that it wasn’t that long ago that experts recommended that the optimal time to get a flu vaccination was in October and November.

It wasn’t until the 2006-07 flu season that we started to get updated guidelines for earlier flu vaccinations, starting with recommendations to offer flu shots in September for high risk groups “to avoid missed opportunities for vaccination.”

The next year the recommendation for the timing of flu vaccination became “health-care providers should begin offering vaccination soon after vaccine becomes available and if possible by October. To avoid missed opportunities for vaccination, providers should offer vaccination during routine health-care visits or during hospitalizations whenever vaccine is available.”

And with over 150 million doses of flu vaccine produced each year, it has been some time since we have seen a true flu vaccine shortage. The fact that more and more companies are making flu vaccines also helps ensure that shortages don’t happen.

Still, most flu vaccine manufacturers use older egg-based technology to grow flu virus strains for vaccine, which is not as reliable or flexible as many would wish it to be. This is what often leads to flu vaccine delays and shortages – the fact that in some years, the flu virus is simply hard to grow.

Flu Vaccine Delays and Shortages and the rest of the article:

New Flu strains for 2019 – 2020 have been identified

The World Health Organization has announced the upcoming strains of influenza for the 2019-2020 flu season and has made vaccination composition recommendations accordingly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that the 2018-2019 influenza vaccination had a 47% efficacy rate, making it one of the most effective vaccinations against the flu to date. The vaccine for the upcoming flu season has been updated to better match circulating viruses.

Influenza A viruses were predominant in most countries and accounted for 95% of all influenza viruses detected. Globally, co-circulation of both A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) viruses was evident in all countries and territories, as per the WHO. Two B components were also detected.

You can read the rest of the details :

For those living in the UK here is an article on Influenza and who should have the vaccinations by the NHS

The flu vaccine is routinely given on the NHS to:

  • adults 65 and over
  • people with certain medical conditions (including children in at-risk groups from 6 months of age)
  • pregnant women
  • children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2019
  • children in primary school
  • frontline health or social care workers

Which type of flu vaccine should I have?

There are several types of flu vaccine. You’ll be offered the one that’s most effective for your age:

  • children aged 2 to 17 in an eligible group are offered a live attenuated quadrivalent vaccine (LAIV), given as a nasal spray
  • adults aged 18 to 64 who are either pregnant, or at increased risk from flu because of a long-term health condition, are offered a quadrivalent injected vaccine – the vaccine offered will have been grown either in eggs or cells (QIVe or QIVc), which are considered to be equally suitable
  • adults aged 65 and over will be offered either an adjuvanted trivalent injected vaccine grown in eggs (aTIV) or a cell-grown quadrivalent injected vaccine (QIVc) – both vaccines are considered to be equally suitable.

Read the rest of the article:

And if you would like further information about Influenza here is my post from last year.

Influenza can have a very serious effect on the very young and old and those who have poorly functioning immune systems.  As we head into September it is important to begin to take precautions to prevent infection.

The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the First World War. Between 20 and 40 million people died and because the figures were so horrendous we may never know the true extent of this awful two-year period. Very few countries were spared and its effects on an already devastated world population were horrendous. It was called the Spanish Flu because the earliest mortalities were in Spain were over 8 million people died.

Anywhere that soldiers or refugees gathered in large numbers became infected and the early outbreaks were largely ignored. Returning soldiers from the front brought the disease home to every city, town and village. Most of the populations throughout Europe were poorly nourished following the war years and were in no condition to fight off this virulent infection especially as there were none of the drugs that we have available today.

How ironic to have survived the war years, including years in the trenches to then succumb to an infection. They estimate that over a fifth of the world’s population was infected and those most at risk appear to have been between the ages of 20 and 40. The exact same age as those that fought for four hard years on various battlefronts. 28% of Americans were infected and over 675,000 Americans died. Of the US soldiers who died in Europe half were killed by influenza.

The initial cause of the outbreak has never been established. The theory was that conditions in the trenches and the use of chemicals such as mustard gas created the environment where the infection thrived. There have been links to unusually humid weather, which certainly created the perfect environment to foster viral and bacterial infections amongst sick, injured and immune suppressed soldiers and the medical staff who cared for them.

We have never seen anything like this since, but these figures illustrate that we cannot take these infections lightly and with the current threat of more virulent pathogens crossing the species barrier and taking advantage of our modern travel patterns, we need to take our own health seriously and look at ways to prevent infection.

What is influenza (Flu)

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. In a person with a strong immune system the symptoms may be very mild with a headache, feverishness, sore throat, muscle aches and a runny nose. In very young children or in elderly patients there can also be gastric complications with vomiting and diarrhoea.

If left untreated or if a person has very little resistance to infection there can be complications including pneumonia. Dehydration is a problem that can exacerbate existing problems such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes.

How do we catch the flu?

The virus is spread in respiratory drops caused by coughing and sneezing although it is possible to catch the virus after touching contaminated surfaces and then passing the virus to the nose or mouth as with the common cold.

One of the problems with the flu is that you can infect someone else a day before you show the symptoms which gives you 24 hours to put others at risk at work, in schools or on public transport. Who of us has not sat next to someone on a plane for a few hours while they cough and splutter the way on holiday? An infected person is still contagious for five days after their symptoms have appeared. This usually means that it is very difficult to avoid contagion within a family where you live together in a close knit unit.

How do we prevent infection

The same rules apply for the flu as for the common cold that I covered yesterday. Your main form of defense is the simple act of washing your hands frequently. It is also essential to limit your contact with people who are obviously suffering from an infection. As I have just mentioned this is difficult due to the nature of the progression of the influenza, that 24 hour window when there are no symptoms can result in multiple infections.

One answer during the flu months of October, November, December, January and February is to stop kissing and shaking hands with friends and family when you meet them. My mother when she hit 90 had a couple of colds one after the other and I put a ban on her usual habit of kissing everyone she met… For the next five years she did not get one cold. She also had an alcohol based hand sanitizer that she used when going out and after meeting people.

Also in the UK everyone over 65 can have an annual flu shot as can the carers of vulnerable groups. My mother had this every year and it obviously helped. There is some controversy over the vaccine and its safety. It is a decision you need to make after discussing with your doctor but my opinion on the subject is that certainly for those in their mid-70’s and 80’s the risk of the disease is greater than the jab…

The flu shot that is available from the autumn onwards. The vaccine contains killed virus and can be given to anyone over 6 months old.

Drug Resistance

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections not viral infections, so going to your doctor and asking for them is not going to help.  However, antibiotics do play a role in the spread of infectious diseases.  Since their first use for the general public in the late 40’s and 50’s, antibiotics have been regarded as a cure-all.  As a child living in South Africa in the early 60’s I suffered six bouts of tonsilitis over the period of a year until my tonsils were removed. Within six months I had gained nearly 42lbs and it began a lifelong battle with my weight until I reached 330lbs 22 years ago.  It is a story that I have heard hundreds of times as I work with clients who are overweight, suffer from repeated infections and who suffer from specific food intolerances (not allergies).

Antibiotics are usually broad spectrum and therefore have a shotgun approach to killing bacteria responsible for infection…In the past and sadly far too often in the present, doctors do not take a urine, blood sample or swab to send off for testing to determine the specific bacteria causing the infection and will therefore prescribe the generalised formula antibiotic for that broad type of infection.

This results in a shock wave of bacterial death which does not only kill harmful bacteria but can devastate colonies of our beneficial bacteria in the chemical soup that is essential for life and health.

This includes the absolutely critical good bacteria in our intestines (the gut brain) where all our food is processed for nutrients and passed back into the bloodstream to keep us healthy.  So, repeated doses of antibiotics regularly to treat minor bacterial infections as well as erroneously for viral infections will compromise not just your health but your immune system which is your first line of defense.

Obviously, this does not mean that if you are currently taking a course of antibiotics prescribed for you by your doctor you suddenly stop.. If it is for a bacterial infection it is crucial that you always complete the course.  If you stop because you feel better you are setting yourself up for reinfection because pockets of the disease have not been killed off.  This will mean that within a short space of time you will need another course of drugs.

Non-completion of antibiotic prescribed courses is one of the leading causes of more serious infections taking hold in the body.

gingergrapefruit seed extract

There are a number of natural anti-bacterial and viral preparations that can help particularly if you have a healthy immune system. Having a healthy with a wide variety from all the food groups, minimising sugar and a diet that has minimal industrially produced food products is a very good start.

Those most at risk of getting influenza

  • The most at risk are 65 years old and over because they are more likely to have medical conditions that put them at risk of infection.
  • People who live in long term care facilities or hospitals.
  • A person of any age who is already suffering from a pre-existing condition such as heart disease or asthma.
  • Anyone on long term medication or repeated courses of antibiotics.
  • Children between the ages of 6 months and 24 months.
  • Anyone who is on assisted respiratory machinery.

Other Precautions

For healthy people there is the option of a nasal spray that contains live but weakened flu viruses that do not actually cause the flu but stimulate the antibodies needed to protect against the full strength influenza virus.

It is very important that your immune system is as strong as it needs to be before the winter months. Apart from avoiding contact with those you know to be infected you have to guard against those people who are not showing symptoms. You will have no idea who has the virus or not so your best line of defense is to ensure your body is strong enough to fix the problem fast.

A reminder of the basic precautions you can take to minimise infection.

  • If you have the infection then do cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and discard hygienically straightaway.
  • Wash your own hands with soap and water at every opportunity or use a specific alcohol based hand cleaner.
  • Avoid touching your own eyes, nose or mouth to avoid re-infection.
  • Wash your hands before and after going to do any shopping, particularly if you use a shopping trolley.
  • Avoid social kissing of cheeks etc and be aware that some people may not wash their hands as frequently as you do. (there is a reason the Queen wears white cotton gloves for public engagements!)
  • Remember that everything you touch from door handles to the backs of airline seats may have been touched by someone with the flu. Take some handy wipes with you or wash hands after contact.
  • If you have small children at kindergarten or school they will be in the cross fire and teaching them to wash their hands as early as possible does help but if it is rampant in the classroom it will come home with them. Make sure they too are eating an immune system boosting diet…

I hope that has been of some help and coming up later this morning is the first in the immune system series, and over the next few weeks I will be including how to boost the immune system to combat colds and flu, and also other diseases that are opportunistic.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction in ebooks you can find them here:

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and please help spread the word by sharing..Sally.