Swine Flu Outbreak Spreading Rapidly
By Heather Robson
Buckle up. It’s flu season, and the same strain of swine flu that caused a global pandemic in 2009 is again hitting the nation hard.
More than half of the United States is reporting above average flu activity for this time of year, and more than half of the reported cases are H1N1, more commonly known as the swine flu. In 2009, this strain claimed almost 284,000 lives worldwide.
H1N1 differs from your average flu strain in two important ways:
- It spreads more rapidly than a typical flu. In just the past couple of weeks there’s been a big spike in the number of reported flu cases.
- It tends to hit healthy, young people the hardest. Usually it’s the elderly or people who are already ill who are most susceptible to the flu, but H1N1 affects kids, teenagers, and middle-aged adults much worse than a normal strain of the flu.
Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease specialist, says this about our current flu season and the H1N1 virus: “So far the outbreak of this flu season seems to me, as an infectious disease practitioner, to be more dramatic and more severe. It seems to be a little bit of an explosive onset, and what I’ve seen in my patients is a few cases trickling in and then boom! It’s much more common.”
H1N1 is already causing deaths around the nation. In Michigan, three people have died. Eighty-one people have been hospitalized in Portland with two deaths so far. In North Carolina, 13 people have died, and in Texas, six lives have been lost.
It’s time to prepare for a rough flu season, and the first question you need to ask yourself is…
Should I Get the Vaccine?
I’m not dogmatic about vaccines. It’s a personal decision whether or not you vaccinate against the flu, and there are pros and cons to either decision. You should discuss your decision with your personal doctor.
The flu vaccine does carry risks, but those risks are statistically small compared with the risk of suffering complications from the flu. Generally speaking, I personally prefer to avoid vaccines, so long as I’m in good health and have access to good nutrition and sanitation.
But if I were in a high-risk category, I’d go for the vaccine.
This year, I’m seriously considering the vaccine because H1N1 hit people my age the hardest and because this year the vaccine is actually formulated to prevent H1N1. It’s not all too often that the flu strains the vaccine is meant to prevent match up with those that are actively causing the majority of illnesses in any given season, but this is one of those years.
Whether you decide to get the vaccine or not, you should still take steps to build up your immune system.
Five Ways to Whip
Your Immune System Into Shape
While getting the flu shot may help to prevent you from getting hit with H1N1, it won’t protect you from every strain of the flu. And it won’t protect you from getting a cold at all.
Taking steps to punch up your immune system is the best way to ensure you enjoy good health throughout the year. Use these five immune-boosting strategies to guard your health against all threats, not just the flu.
Immune-Booster #1: Did you know that your immune system really starts in your digestive system? Your intestine contains more immune cells than everywhere else in your body combined. A healthy immune system starts with a healthy balance of positive bacteria in your gut. Begin taking a probiotic supplement and eating more probiotic foods like yogurt, and you’ll be on your way to supporting your immune system at its source.
Evidence shows this really works. People who take a probiotic are 42% less likely to get a cold than people who don’t.
Immune-Booster #2: Eat more greens. Leafy green vegetables help to support cellular functions that are critical to immune system response. Adding foods like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard to your diet will help keep colds and flus at bay.
Immune Booster #3: Spice up your food. Things like garlic, turmeric, cayenne, and even black pepper all support healthy immune function. And they taste great, too! Who says healthy food has to be boring?
Immune Booster #4: Cut the negative stress. Having a bad reaction to a stressful situation lowers your immune system. Fortunately, you can counter any damage by taking up a stress-reducing habit. This might be meditation, yoga, qigong, tai chi, or journaling. Take your pick, or plan another relaxing activity. Whatever it is, if it cuts your stress, it will help protect you from getting sick.
Immune Booster #5: Take a natural vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is critical to a healthy functioning immune system. During the winter months, the sun’s angle is too low to trigger effective vitamin D production – not to mention, you’re all covered up when you go outside! My favorite vitamin D supplement is a daily tablespoon of cod liver oil. It delivers a healthy dose of vitamins D and A along with omega-3 fatty acids… they’re all good for your immune system.
In addition to these five immune boosters, make hand-washing a frequent habit, and be sure to get enough rest each night. In no time at all, you’ll find yourself staying fit and healthy through each cold and flu season!