Following the media and having some historical knowledge of the flu pandemic, I have some concerns about the unknowns of the coming flu. I was relieved to hear in your article that the death rate for H1N1 was not higher than the regular flu (“The Coming Flu,” Aug. 27).
What I have never been able to figure out is where they get this number of 36,000 people dying a year in the U.S. from the flu. It is certainly no estimate by the Centers for Disease Control, as stated in the correction (Sept. 3). The number they give on their Web site for 2006 is 849. In 1995 it was up to 1,812, with 1,601 of them being over 65.
I was happy that the Journal selected Sara Sunstein’s letter as its favorite. A recent article in the Archives of Internal Medicine stated that a healthy lifestyle can lower risk of developing the most common and deadly diseases by about 80 percent. I know that your gut tells you that there is more to fighting the flu than a healthy lifestyle. In Canada they are looking into research that shows most people that get influenza have a decreased Vitamin D level in their blood. Other new research suggests that having a proper Vitamin D level can cut the overall risk for cancer in half.
My personal experience is with Chinese herbs that have antiviral effects. Many people have their favorite formula that has worked for them in the past, but in reality different formulas work better for different situations depending on how one is affected. One of the main actions of the herbs is to keep the virus from replicating so the results are more dramatic it taken at first signs of the virus. That being said, when I was studying with a specialist in this field 21 year ago in China we saw a number of people who had lung infections and had many rounds of antibiotics and who had seen other herbalists without success and generally we got them better in two weeks.
There are many other ways to help with the flu, but space does not allow me to get into them here.
John Yamas, Licensed Acupuncturist, Arcata
Ed. reply: The CDC Web site states that 36,000 people per year die from “flu-related causes” in the United States. See the “Flu Basics” page at cdc.gov/flu.
I would like to add to the list of preventative measures one can take to increase your defenses and decrease the chance of contracting swine flu, or any other flu.
Vitamin D levels typically fall off in the winter when you need them most! Taking Vitamins D (as 25-OH D-3) and A (as beta carotene or mixed carotenoids) will help your chances of fighting off a flu. They have many other health benefits. You can start these now to increase your levels for the upcoming season. If you have further questions, consult a pharmacist!
Robert Lima, Eureka