Epidemic Influenza And Vitamin D (Flashback)

In early April of 2005, after a particularly rainy spring, an influenza epidemic (epi: upon, demic: people) exploded through the maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane where I have worked for the last ten years. It was not the pandemic (pan: all, demic: people) we all fear, just an epidemic. The world is waiting and governments are preparing for the next pandemic. A severe influenza pandemic will kill many more Americans than died in the World Trade Centers, the Iraq war, the Vietnam War, and Hurricane Katrina combined, perhaps a million people in the USA alone. Such a disaster would tear the fabric of American society. Our entire country might resemble the Superdome or Bourbon Street after Hurricane Katrina.

It’s only a question of when a pandemic will come, not if it will come. Influenza A pandemics come every 30 years or so, severe ones every hundred years or so. The last pandemic, the Hong Kong flu, occurred in 1968 – killing 34,000 Americans. In 1918, the Great Flu Epidemic killed more than 500,000 Americans. So many millions died in other countries, they couldn’t bury the bodies. Young healthy adults, in the prime of their lives in the morning, drowning in their own inflammation by noon, grossly discolored by sunset, were dead at midnight. Their body’s own broad-spectrum natural antibiotics, called antimicrobial peptides, seemed nowhere to be found. An overwhelming immune response to the influenza virus – white blood cells releasing large amounts of inflammatory agents called cytokines and chemokines into the lungs of the doomed – resulted in millions of deaths in 1918.

As I am now a psychiatrist, and no longer a general practitioner, I was not directly involved in fighting the influenza epidemic in our hospital. However, our internal medicine specialists worked overtime as they diagnosed and treated a rapidly increasing number of stricken patients. Our Chief Medical Officer quarantined one ward after another as more and more patients were gripped with the chills, fever, cough, and severe body aches that typifies the clinical presentation of influenza A.

Epidemic influenza kills a million people in the world every year by causing pneumonia, “the captain of the men of death.” These epidemics are often explosive; the word influenza comes from Italian (Medieval Latin ?nfluentia) or influence, because of the belief that the sudden and abrupt epidemics were due to the influence of some extraterrestrial force. One seventeenth century observer described it well when he wrote, “suddenly a Distemper arose, as if sent by some blast from the stars, which laid hold on very many together: that in some towns, in the space of a week, above a thousand people fell sick together.”

I guess our hospital was under luckier stars as only about 12% of our patients were infected and no one died. However, as the epidemic progressed, I noticed something unusual. First, the ward below mine was infected, and then the ward on my right, left, and across the hall – but no patients on my ward became ill. My patients had intermingled with patients from infected wards before the quarantines. The nurses on my unit cross-covered on infected wards. Surely, my patients were exposed to the influenza A virus. How did my patients escape infection from what some think is the most infectious of all the respiratory viruses?

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Doctor questions value of vaccines

The ongoing swine flu epidemic may have you wishing you had taken that flu shot this season, but some doctors say you may be better off without it.

“Since the 12th century, the most commonly used treatment for a cold or the flu is chicken soup,” said Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, one of the guest speakers at the U.S. Autism & Asperger Association’s regional conference on Saturday at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Cherry Hill. “If you think we have anything more sophisticated now, think again.”

Related article: Swine flu pandemic? It feels like a phoney war (Guardian)

Eisenstein, who addressed conference attendees from Illinois through video conferencing, discussed the effectiveness of vaccines and their theorized connection to autism.

“The more people receive the flu vaccine, the more deaths there are,” said Eisenstein, citing various scientific studies. “Now that doesn’t mean that the two are related, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.”

Eisenstein didn’t limit his criticism to the flu shot.

“We perpetuate the myth that vaccines are the answer,” Eisenstein said.

Although vaccines have been credited with the virtual elimination of various diseases, Eisenstein said there’s no evidence to support vaccines were the cause.

Among the diseases that have virtually disappeared are measles, scarlet fever, tuberculosis and whooping cough and vaccines are not available to prevent any of them, Eisenstein said.

What has an impact, he said, is vitamin D and probiotics.

“We started using it at our practice this year and we got amazing results,” Eisenstein said. “I met doctor after doctor who have had the same results.”

Eisenstein said that patients who got a high dose of vitamin D for three days at the onset of a cold recovered much faster than patients who didn’t.

He cited a study in which vitamin D was administered to some of the 104 participants. About 24 of the participants in the group that had received no vitamin D reported having a cold during the winter months, Eisenstein said. Only two to three participants who had a received a lower dose of vitamin D reported having a cold and none of the participants who was given a higher dose of the vitamin became ill, he said.

Unlike vitamin A, which is readily obtained from a variety of foods, vitamin D is harder to come by, Eisenstein said.

That’s why he recommends that children get vitamin D supplements.

Exposure to the sun for 15 to 20 minutes every day, without sunblock, can give the body a much needed vitamin D boost, Eisenstein said.

“Vitamin D is clearly part of the answer, but I can tell you the complete answer is not vaccinations,” Eisenstein said.

Nancy Gualario, of Colts Neck, runs an advisory group for parents with special needs children.

“I like to come to these things and bring the information back to the parents,” Gualario said.

One of Gualario’s triplets was diagnosed with autism at age 2, she said.

“I’ve been doing some of these therapies and have had tremendous success,” she said.

Lisa McLaughlin also has a son with autism and came from Virginia to attend the conference, which concludes today.

“I read about some of these interventions online and I wanted to find out more,” McLaughlin said.

Reach Lavinia DeCastro at (856) 486-2652 or ldecastro@courierpostonline.com

By LAVINIA DeCASTRO • Courier-Post Staff • May 3, 2009

Source: Courier Post Online

Vitamin D is ray of sunshine for multiple sclerosis patients


An MRI scan of the brain of a multiple sclerosis sufferer

Multiple sclerosis could be prevented through daily vitamin D supplements, scientists told The Times last night.

The first causal link has been established between the “sunshine vitamin” and a gene that increases the risk of MS, raising the possibility that the debilitating auto-immune disease could be eradicated.

George Ebers, Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford, claimed that there was hard evidence directly relating both genes and the environment to the origins of MS.

His work suggests that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and childhood may increase the risk of a child developing the disease.

He has also established the possibility that genetic vulnerability to MS, apparently initiated by lack of vitamin D, may be passed through families.

These risks might plausibly be reduced by giving vitamin D supplements to pregnant woman and young children.

“I think it offers the potential for treatment which might prevent MS in the future,” Professor Ebers said.

“Our research has married two key pieces of the puzzle. The interaction of vitamin D with the gene is very specific and it seems most unlikely to be a coincidence of any kind.”

Warnings over sun exposure could now also be called into question – sunlight allows the body to produce the vitamin.

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