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Is swine flu really a big deal?

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September 17, 2009

5:25 PM

With news of swine flu, or H1N1, outbreaks sweeping the nation and a case of the disease on campus, College of William and Mary students may be wondering how to fight off the flu as well as asking themselves if the vaccine is really worth it. Let’s look at the facts:

Cumulative reported cases in universities in proximity to William and Mary, according to WDBJ 7 news:

University of Maryland: 435
University of Virginia: 119
Virginia Tech: 85 with flu-like symptoms, 17 confirmed cases
University of Richmond: 68
Virginia Commonwealth University: 4
University of Mary Washington: 1
Roanoke College: 4
Washington and Lee University: 9
Liberty University: up to 150
James Madison University: none
Virginia Military Institute: none

William and Mary’s reported cases: 1 (There were three cases this summer with summer camp counselors and a camper.)

Symptoms of H1N1: Just like any other flu, those with H1N1 may experience a fever, sore throat, cough, congestion, headache, fatigue, night/day chills, body aches, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

Pros and cons of the flu shot: The flu shot has been offered in the past at the Health Center. This year, health officials claim it is more important than ever to receive the flu vaccine and the swine flu vaccine.

Children, and especially college students, are more susceptible to the flu than those over 24 years old. It seems logical then to get the flu shot, right? Wrong.

In 1976 during the last swine flu outbreak, hundreds of people who received the swine flu vaccine suffered from Guillain-Barre (or Toxic Vaccine) syndrome.

This year’s swine flu vaccine only began testing in late July and early August. It may be too early to tell what sort of side effects will plague those who receive the vaccine — so it seems a bit irresponsible of the government and pharmaceutical companies to publicize and administer this vaccine. However, flu vaccines have been known to save thousands of lives, which is significant because over 36,000 Americans die each year from the flu.

Some immune systems are unable to handle the vaccine. When stressed or anxious, students shouldn’t get the flu vaccine. High stress levels lead to a suppressed immune system, which makes it harder for the body to create the natural antigens for the flu. As a result, those who are more susceptible to the virus may suffer flu side-effects. This may also increase the chances of others contracting the flu.

Flu vaccines do prevent up to 75 percent of flu cases for those that have received the vaccine. Pharmaceutical companies do their best to quickly develop a flu vaccine during an outbreak. Yet this also leads to competition, faulty testing, false publicizing, and endangering the population.

The pharmaceutical company Baxter has created one of the nationwide swine flu vaccines. It also has some history of scandals in administering faulty pharmaceuticals.

The vaccine itself is quite a controversial chemical compound. Within the flu vaccine there are traces of squalene (often acknowledged as a precursor to various auto-immune diseases), formaldehyde (Yuck. Dead people), egg protein (bad for those allergic to eggs), potassium phosphate (usually used in fungicides and fertilizers), and thimerosal (a form of mercury).

What’s worse is that babies and infants are the target population health care pushes to receive the vaccine — and the dosage of the vaccine given to children is the same given to adults.

Since the FDA has approved the vaccine, perhaps we have nothing to worry about; we should just let this flu rave run its course. But the FDA has been wrong before, and so has our government and health care system.

Everyone should look out for themselves and make their own decisions, regardless of the hype on the television — just because everyone runs to the doctors for a vaccine doesn’t mean it’s safe.

We all know the common ways to fend off the flu: washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough, using hand sanitizer, getting plenty of sleep.

Foods you should have when fighting the flu, or to prevent the flu: garlic, hot and spicy foods that clear nasal passages, ginger tea to suppress coughs, citrus foods, and vitamin C.

An easy way to get vitamin C without peeling a hundred oranges is to purchase 1000 mg of Vitamin C packets, available at local food stores.

If you have the flu, you don’t have to be “rec’d.” You should avoid anything that is an immunosuppressive, such as heavy milk products (they create excess mucous in the body), hamburgers, pizza, fried foods, and salt (which constricts blood vessels). But you should eat lean proteins like chicken noodle soup.

Yogurts are great for boosting the immune system, and so are flavenoids (found in grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and limes). Foods with glutathione, such as kale, spinach, watermelon, cabbage, and broccoli also support and protect the immune system.

And when nauseous, peppermint tea always helps to calm an upset stomach.

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