An updated version of a post we originally ran last September. The more things change…
It’s that time of year again: The annual insistence on flu shots.
Last year, we were told to get vaccinated because, even though the vaccine was the same as in 2010, it might have worn off. This year, the word is that we need the new vaccine because a couple new strains of influenza are floating around.
Just because last year was the mildest flu season on record doesn’t mean the virus might not bounce back to its usual ferocity this winter.
“People cannot become complacent this year,” said Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who received his own flu shot Thursday.
So vaccines for everyone! – except “babies younger than 6 months and people with severe allergies to the eggs used to make the vaccine.”
Yes, the flu can be a life-threatening disease, but let’s keep things in perspective. Only a small portion of the US population gets the flu in any given year: 5 to 20% , according to the CDC. Between 1976 and 2006, flu-related death estimates ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. By way of comparison ,
Deaths from heart disease: 616,067
From cancer: 562,875
From stroke: 135,952
From chronic respiratory diseases: 127,924
From accidents: 123,706
From Alzheimer’s: 74,632
From diabetes: 71,382
Notably, except for accidents, all of these conditions are largely preventable, not by vaccines but healthy, balanced lifestyle choices. And the flu can be prevented just as naturally.
No doubt, you know people who have stayed healthy through flu season without getting the shot. You probably also know people who have come down with the flu despite having been vaccinated. The simple fact is, it takes more than a virus to cause the flu. As the authors of a 2011 study in PLoS Genetics put it, “Exposure to influenza viruses is necessary, but not sufficient, for healthy human hosts to develop symptomatic illness.”
infected 17 healthy people with the flu virus and discovered that everyone who is exposed to the flu actually is affected by it, but their bodies just have a different way of reacting to it. Half of the study participants got sick; the other half didn’t notice a thing.
“Many people might conclude that if you are exposed to a virus and you don’t get sick, it’s because the virus didn’t stick or it was so weak, it just passed right through your system and your system didn’t notice. That’s not a correct notion,” says Alfred Hero, professor at the University of Michigan College of Engineering and author of the study….
He continues, “There is an active immune response which accounts for the resistance of certain people getting sick, and that response is just as active as the response we all know and hate, which is being sick with the sniffles, fever, coughing and sneezing. It’s just that the responses are different.”
Exactly. And this is entirely in line with what scientists such as biologist Antoine Béchamp and physiologist Claude Bernard established way back in the 19th century: In and of themselves, “germs” don’t cause disease. Rather, disease – and health – are dictated by the state of the body’s internal environment, the biological terrain. When it’s healthy, clean and well-ordered, a person resists disease with a robust immune response. When it’s not, the body can’t self-regulate as it evolved to do but still tries to recover from injury or the assault of toxins, be they natural (like a flu virus) or human-made (like chemical residues). We experience this failure as illness.
In either case, the body responds. There’s always a reaction. The question mark is what kind of reaction it will be. Illness is one response; fending off illness is another.
To learn more about the biological terrain and its role in illness and health, see Dr. Verigin’s articles here .