How to Protect the Immune-Compromised From Bird Flu

By: rickstooker
One difference between the threat of bird flu today and the 1918 flu is that in 1918 we did not have a large number of people with extremely weak immune systems.

Before antibiotics, people with really weak immune systems tended not to survive childhood.

Today, we have:

Many people who are deliberately taking drugs to reduce the strength of the immune systems, because they've had organ transplants.

Many more people who have weakened immune systems because they're undergoing chemo or radiation treatment for cancer. There're millions of such patients around the globe.

And yet many other people who are infected with the HIV virus, which weakens immune systems by infecting CD4 (or T-4) cells. According to the United Nations World Health Organization, there were 40.3 million HIV+ people in the world by the end of 2005.

We also have more people with severe chronic diseases such as heart disease, simply because we have more treatments to keep them alive.

That's a total of many millions of people who must avoid all contact with bird flu during a pandemic.

And that is the best protection -- avoid all contact with bird flu.

And that means avoiding contact with as many people as possible. Because during a pandemic anybody could have the virus. It infects you from 1 to 2 days before you know you're sick, and you shed the most virus in the 2 to 5 days after infection.

There are no flu vaccines specifically for contagious bird flu, and they will likely not be produced until 6 months after the pandemic begins, which will be far too late for many people. And the virus will mutate more as it continues to spread and replicate, so it's unlikely we'll ever have an influenza vaccine that exactly matches the strain of H5N1 we're exposed to. And it mutates and recombines so quickly that during a pandemic several different strains could be spreading at the same time.

Tamiflu may help these people more than others, because it does directly interfere with the bird flu virus' ability to infect the cells of your respiratory tract. Unfortunately, we don't yet know exactly how much Tamiflu is needed to fully protect against bird flu. And it's quite likely that strains of the virus will develop resistance to Tamiflu -- if they haven't already.

Relenza works much like Tamiflu, except it's inhaled. This reduces its effectiveness against H5N1 because it goes to the upper respiratory tract, but the virus likes to infect cells in the lower respiratory tract. Its makers are not working on creating an injectable form of it.

People with poor immune systems must do everything they can to avoid the virus. Reduce contact with people and wash their hands at least once an hour.

They should also do everything they can to keep up their general health: sleep a lot, eat a good balance of proteins, vegetables and fruit while avoiding sweets and starchy carbohydrates, stop smoking, reduce alcohol, exercise moderately and maintain a positive attitude.

They should also take immune boosting and strengthening food supplements: Omega-3, zinc, selenium, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta carotene, Vitamin B complex, green chlorophyll superfoods, and so on.

If possible, they should try to receive any medical care they need at home. If possible, they should avoid going to hospitals and clinics. These places have many strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria even now.

During a bird flu pandemic they'll be crowded with flu patients spreading the H5N1 virus -- exactly what immune-compromised people must avoid.

And of course, consult with they should consult with their doctor.
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