This article was originally written when there was the scare of bird flu coming from Asia...
Protecting yourself from the bird flu is no different from protecting yourself during any other flu season, with the exception that the human form of the bird flu can be much more damaging than the regular flu. Remember that currently this aggressive form of the bird flu does not have the ability to transfer from person to person. Thus the guidelines below apply to regular, airborne contagious diseases including the regular flu, and will also apply if the bird flu ever becomes able to directly transfer between humans.
When it comes down to the basics, there are only four things that we can do to protect us from infection:
1) Decrease the likelihood of becoming infected by taking precautions to reduce exposure to the virus or germ
2) Decrease the likelihood of becoming infected by keeping our natural defenses, our immune system, healthy, active, and stimulated
3) If we do become infected, increase the intensity of the measures we use to stimulate our immune system
4) If we do become infected, clear the infection with more aggressive biological therapies and ensure that people in close contact with us have as a precaution increased their protective measures also
The basics of these four steps are below. These are extremely safe measures that make good sense and can be widely adopted; however it is always best to check with a physician trained in natural and biological medicine before adopting some of the measures, especially if you have a history of any autoimmune disease, allergy to herbals, or other pre-existing medical condition.
Step One: Reducing exposure during the flu season is a step that is often emphasized in conventional medicine. Conventional medicine gives a lot of weight and strength to the virulence (or ability of a germ to infect most people) of viral diseases, and as such advocates strongly exposure reduction methods. This is a very important component that should not be neglected, however it is not the only important component. I advocate using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or washing all surfaces of the hands, fingers, nails, and wrists for at least 30 seconds before eating, after returning to your residence, after touching mucus membranes (eg when blowing your nose), and after going to the washroom. It is also handy to have a small alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the car. Avoid touching mucus membranes such as the insides of the nose or mouth as many (adults!) have this habit. If dry skin and irritation to the skin is a problem, using a moisturizer such as Herbacin (from the drugstore) 2-3 times a day is useful.
Occasionally, some patients with frequent exposure may benefit from nasal and sinus rinses with a saline solution. Theoretically this may be useful to reduce contact to the virus, but I haven't found it to be useful. If a patient develops a strong sinusitis then occasionally we will use this with a very mild hydrogen peroxide solution (1 part 3% to 3-5 parts water as a "snort") but this is absolutely not necessary as a preventative.
Step Two: This is perhaps the most important component of prevention against any flu, including any upcoming pandemics. It is also one of the most complex areas that may require fine-tuning, testing, and adjustment by a physician trained in biological medicine. However, there are a few basic tenets that will benefit most.
Cellular immunity is the most important component for preventing influenzas. In scientific terms, this means Th1-type immunity, and Th1-type cytokines. Some of the herbal medicines I describe below stimulate both Th1 and mildly Th2, but the net effect is a reduction in viral infection.
Echinilin (Weber Naturals, found in most pharmacies): This medicine is a standardized extract of echinacea shown to stimulate the immune system and reduce the duration of viral infection. It has been used traditionally as a preventative. Most adult patients without pre-existing medical conditions will do well with 2 capsules twice a day during the flu season as a preventative. There is no need to "rest" the system with a week off. There was recent bad press about echinacea from a large study purporting to show lack of effectiveness; however the dose used was extremely low (less than half of a traditionally used dosage). Also, the study is not clear as to what percentage of active components was used, wheras the Echinilin that I recommend is standardized to the active components.
Cold-FX (found in most pharmacies, and at Costco): This medicine is an extract of certain ginsenosides found to be strongly active at stimulating cellular immunity. The dosage for prevention in adults is 1 capsule twice a day.
Adreset (found in my office): This is also an extract of Chinese ginseng, Russian ginseng, and another plant. Though I usually use this medicine to support energy and the adrenal glands during times of fatigue and stress, it even more useful as a preventative against infection and the flu. The dosage is one capsule twice a day.
These three basic medicines should be part of most households as they will be useful at decreasing the likelihood of becoming infected with the flu.
Aerobic exercise: is perhaps the most important part of prevention, although the benefit (in terms of the immune system) takes some time. Ideally, as part of a weekly routine, aerobic exercise to a level that produces sweating and mild difficulty keeping up a conversation should be done 4-5 times a week for 20-30 minutes. If people are new to exercise, they should get an exam from their physician first and avoid exercising in the cold.
Exercise is pretty close to getting an oxidative therapy such as ozone, ultraviolet blood irradiation, or hydrogen peroxide, and has plenty of other benefits as well.
Steps Three and Four: If a person does become infected and sick (with signs of thick, yellow, mucus excretion from blowing the nose, fever, body aches, or cough) then the dosage of the above herbals should be doubled.
If the person is able to come to the office, then a treatment with ultraviolet blood irradiation is the fastest, most effective way to rid the body of the infection.
This treatment is a simple procedure that takes about 30 minutes to complete, and was used in North American hospitals before the advent of antibiotics in the 1930s. Studies from hospital records in the 30s showed that the cure rate of a wide variety of infections was close to 100% in mild to moderately advanced cases; in cases where the patient was close to death, the cure rate was still close to an astonishing 50%. The cure is rapid also. While most flus and influenzas will keep patients at home from work for 10-14 days, most patients will only require one treatment and can work in 2-3 days. Some patients may require 2, but the duration of illness is still remarkably lower. This makes ultraviolet blood irradiation one of the most cost-effective treatments for acute viral illnesses available. (Note that for prevention, ozone treatments of the blood will be far more effective. Some patients may opt to do a preventive ozone treatment once every 2-3 weeks during the flu season if they are worried about becoming ill). If you are interested in the history and research of this very effective therapy, please go to www.drdouglass.com and order INTO THE LIGHT as an e-book or hard copy.
In conclusion, the above details are some effective, safe, powerful steps that most adults can take to prevent becoming ill, and to treat if they do. It is absolutely best to check with your naturopathic physician first if there is any current illness. I do not fear infectious influenzas such as the regular flu season nor will I become overly concerned for myself, my family, or my patients if a pandemic comes; as having the knowledge to prevent infection reduces risk and having the tools to treat it even creates a greater safety margin.