2017-18 has been one of the worst flu seasons in recent history. Currently, every state except Hawaii is experiencing widespread flu, experts are calling it just short of an epidemic. Despite efforts to vaccinate, public health experts and officials are finding that this season’s predominant form of the flu, the H3N2 virus, has been particularly difficult to prevent against.
Not only that, higher numbers of people are actually experiencing serious health effects like kidney failure or even death from the flu this year, and not only the very young or very old. Just look at a small section of Southern California alone, Charity Dean, public health official in Santa Barbara County has cited that in the first two weeks of January, eight Santa Barbara residents have already died from the flu. Seven of the eight people had been vaccinated with the current flu shot. These numbers for Santa Barbara county are in line with the state numbers. While the eight residents of Santa Barbara county were all over the age of 65, other incidents pop up of recent flu related deaths involving healthy, active people ranging in age from their teens to their 40s.
While the CDC and pharmaceutical companies are citing about 32% efficacy for this season’s flu shot, the LA times reports new studies emerging from Australia, a country whose flu season usually precedes ours by about 6 months and gives a good estimate of what the US flu season will be like, has shown that preliminary estimates of flu vaccines there had only been about 10% effective. The reason is that the H3N2 virus is more difficult to vaccinate because it can mutate more rapidly during the production process for the vaccine.
So besides depending on an unreliable vaccine, what else can you do to stay healthy in this uncommonly severe flu season? Here are 6 relatively simple remedies:
1) Chinese herbal medicine. With thousands of years of tradition, Chinese herbs and formulations have many reliable ways to combat the common cold and flu. Many of these formulas contain strong antiviral and antimicrobial activity that is a relatively untapped source today.
2) Take Your Vitamins! It’s an oldie but a goodie--strong doses of vitamin C combined with vitamin B complexes and Zinc can effectively bolster the immune system. Even if you do end up catching a cold, continuing to take your vitamins can help to shorten the length of the cold by a few days.
3) Onions. Onions are high in odorous sulfuric compounds that have been shown to be great for boosting your body’s resistance to external infections. Best to eat onions raw, just like garlic.
4) Garlic releases a compound when crushed (or minced, or chewed) called Allicin. 1-2 cloves of fresh raw garlic can be a powerful antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibiotic agent. In addition, it has decongestant and expectorant properties, so continuing to take fresh garlic even when you already have the flu can help to ameliorate your symptoms.
5) Olive leaf extract. I first learned about olive leaf extract from a patient who has successfully used it for cold and flu prevention for years. But upon research, I found that olive leaf extract contains a number of ingredients that have antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal effects. In addition to the flu virus, it has even been shown to be effective at reducing the viral load against the HIV and heptatitis B & C viruses.
6) Oil of Oregano. Oregano is a member of the mint family that contains over 50 active compounds which help to boost the immune system, fight germs, reduce inflammation, and promote the antioxidant activity in the body. In addition, oregano oil has positive effects for nasal congestion and phlegm, making it a good supplement to take to alleviate cold/flu symptoms, and can be taken on a regular basis for people who have chronic sinus conditions.