The influenza season starts in the late fall, goes through the winter holidays, and tends to peak by the end of January. Last year the flu came early and was predominantly influenza type A, the same type that is expected again this year. The flu usually hits the west coast first and then moves across the country to the east coast.
Flu shot recommendations by the Center for Disease Control have been modified this year. According to a report by the CDC only high-risk individuals should get flu shots due to a shortage. You probably know if you are part of this group that is largely associated with chronic disease and age extremes, both old and young. For more precise information please see <http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldget.htm>. Healthy people from two to 64 years of age are asked to postpone or skip getting a flu shot this year so that available vaccines can go to protect those at greater risk for flu complications.
During this season we would like to add that if you are in the healthy people group, there is still much you can do to protect yourself. The CDC advises that you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. Put your used tissue in the wastebasket. Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing by washing with soap and water.
It's easiest to look outside yourself and blame a germ or an allergen. Chinese medicine asks you to focus on where you might be weak and strengthen yourself by building righteous chi. Please ask for a reprint of our June 2004 article, Ways to Build Chi, and we'll be happy to e-mail that to you.
Influenza is a potentially dangerous disease. Even though the health department attempts to include all possible strains in the flu vaccination for the season, this is impossible. Vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year, depending upon the degree of similarity between the strains included in the vaccine and the strain or strains that circulate during the season. Because the vaccine strains must be chosen nine to 10 months before the influenza season, and because influenza viruses mutate over time, sometimes mutations occur in the circulating strains between the time vaccine strains are chosen and the next influenza season is over. These mutations sometimes reduce the ability of the vaccine-induced antibody to inhibit the newly mutated virus, thereby reducing vaccine efficacy.
The focus of the flu shot is to introduce attenuated or deadened forms of the virus into the body that then produces antibodies that can lessen the effect on the body if one indeed contracts the influenza strain. Obviously, this is strain dependent. It requires that the vaccine-included virus be the same or very closely related to the actual virus contracted.
Oriental medicine utilizes a very different technological model in relation to such seasonal invasions. It tends not to focus so much on the pathogenic or invasive factors. Instead, it sees the disease as the result of a combination of factors: the invasive factor and the body's innate strength. The disease is not identified with the symptoms, or with the viral agent, but rather the result of the relationship between the body's constitutional strength and any given invasion. Following this thought form, the eastern view of the invasive factor is not so myopic. We all have experienced times when we are susceptible to cold and flu symptoms based more on individual stress or fatigue rather than on whether we came in contact with a virus. We all have experienced times when people remain quite healthy even though they have been exposed to a virus. Obviously, the sickness was more complicated than simply the virus meets the body.
Chinese herbal remedies do not try to fight a given virus or condition. They do not try to combat congestion, body aches, or upper respiratory distress directly. Instead, they act as nutritional supplements in the highest sense. Cold Snap™is an herbal formula that is based on these ancient principles. In the face of the coming flu season, keeping yourself strong will prove valuable indeed.
This is a re-post from October 26, 2004