Mangalore, Aug. 22 (ANI): I wonder as to how long will medicine's flagship educational events (like warning of epidemics) fly the colours of the drug industry. Isn't this a new Avatar of the common influenza that we have had for centuries?
Every year a few lakhs of people die of all castes of influenza in this world unnoticed and uncovered by our holy media. May be the virus has mutated a bit this time round.
However, recently there was a panic in the air a few months ago predicting a deadly pandemic of a new variety of 'Flu'. It was in April 2009 when there was no way in science to predict the oncoming of an epidemic.
However, efforts to prepare drugs and vaccines were on and the drug companies were altered did they alert the powers that be?. How many people remember the great Bird 'Flu epidemic that came with a bang and disappeared with a whimper, thankfully sparing human lives in the bargain.
That artificial epidemic left a couple of drug giants in the world richer by a few billion dollars. I did predict that futility of getting emotional about bird flu then, but was initially laughed at by my "scientific" colleagues.
What is a virus?
These are very small germs that might, under some circumstances, produce diseases. They cannot be seen even under very powerful ordinary microscopes but require special electron microscopes to see them. Of course, there are smaller germs called "prions", which cause mad cow disease.
Whenever we do not know the cause of any infection, we put the blame on any virus. Normally, viruses, or for that matter any other germs do not harm humans. They would want to live with us in harmony (symbiosis) but if man puts down his immune guard due to various activities, the germ might invade our systems causing illnesses. Viruses have usually either a DNA or RNA unlike bacteria which have both.
What is mutation of a virus?
Mutation, in simple language, means that these viruses are like chameleons. They change their genetic make up sometimes very fast. This is our bane of controlling them. It only takes a few days for a virus to mutate and when it does that all our efforts to identify them (using the rRT PCR test), drugs against the virus as also the vaccine lose their meaning.
To give an example, the present vaccine, threatening to be let lose on the public in October could be totally useless even if this H1N1 mutates a wee bit in the gap between the time the vaccine process started and the time that the vaccine is ready. Even if the virus mutates very little the (rRT PCR) test that the media sells as definitive diagnosis will be useless.
We can only hope that better sense prevails in the virus to obey the dictates of the manufacturers to stay put and not mutate. They have sunk their shareholders' money in the manufacture and in this time of economic depression they cannot risk losing money. They may go any extent to make the virus not to mutate.
How do you detect a virus?
Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis, a chemist at Stanford University, was the first to device a chemical test, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) which differentiates between different types (castes) among the viruses. But a definitive diagnosis of any viral disease depends on the body's immune response to the infection (invasion of body tissues). If one were to diagnose so called swine 'Flu definitely, one has to test the anti-H1N1 antibody titres in the body at the height of infection and again after six weeks. If the titres are very high during the infection only to fall significantly in the next six weeks, a definitive research diagnosis of swine 'Flu' could be made.
When the media says that there are deaths here and there due to Swine 'Flu in a particular place.
They rely on a simple bedside test that collects secretion samples from the throat, mouth and nose of the suspected patients and send it to designated laboratories for identifying the virus in question using a new rapid (rRT-PCR) test which, notably, is designed by the same pharmaceutical company that also has the worldwide rights for selling Tamiflu, the drug that the common man thinks is the panacea for swine 'flu'.
This (rRT-PCR) test has not been scientifically validated before being let lose on the gullible public by the U.S. Government with the plea that the urgency demands "that the usual testing procedures be done away with." In other words, we are having a test whose value is under doubt. The researchers in the field have admitted "that this test is only presumptive and not definitive." Its specificity and sensitivity could be as low as 50 per cent. False positives and false negative tests are not unusual at all.
The other notable features are that the sample collection, its transport to the laboratory, time taken to do the test after collection, the mode of transport from collection to lab and, finally, the quality of the laboratory could all affect the final results.
What about the much hyped vaccine that is threatening to come in October?
Less said about it the better. The vaccine will be introduced without adequate human testing, again for want of time in this artificial emergency. Originally the government said that the unpreserved vaccine will be given to pregnant ladies and infants as the preservatives might damage their system. For the rest, the manufacturer has been permitted to use preservatives to increase the shelf life of the product. The preservatives in the past have been either mercury compounds or a chemical called squalene, which was found to be toxic to the nerve tissues. Many of the readers might remember the mercury damage after many vaccines in the past. Remember the officially denied autism following measles vaccine that was mainly being pushed through NGOs all over. Just last week the government is said to have relaxed the embargo on preserved vaccines for pregnancy and infancy also. What of the capacity of the vaccine to protect us against swine 'Flu? There is no direct evidence that it does. Circumstantial evidence is cited to assure the recipient that he or she is fully protected.
How to avoid getting this new 'Flu?
Only true assurance of immunity could come from real illness and not vaccines. These days our children are given a host of vaccinations and the vaccine industry's shares are soaring to the skies. There are plenty of law suits against vaccine companies in the courts in the west. Let us hope and pray that this vaccine is safe. However, the past experience with 'Flu vaccines has not been very happy one. For reasons best known to the US government, they had made this vaccine mandatory and no one could refuse to be vaccinated. To cap it, the government had also passed an indemnity bill to protect the vaccine and drug manufacturers against future damage claims "in view of the emergency situation".
The WHO raising the pandemic level 6 in such a great hurry could now be understood by people when we also get to know that all the governments are now mandated to help the manufacturers with substantial grants from tax payers' money.
One drug manufacturer had recorded 2.1 billion dollars profit in the first quarter even before the disease struck, thanks to the media scare in the west. Recently it is also found out in the Guardian, London that the British Government's advisor on 'Flu' vaccine and management is also an employee of the same company. However, British government spokesman was made to say that the gentleman in question stayed away from all the crucial meetings where major decisions about 'Flu were taken.
The good news is that the US Federal Court last week stayed that compulsory vaccination clause in the bill allowing people their fundamental right to refuse vaccination if they thought so.
How to protect oneself in this scenario?
Prevention is better than cure as, in modern medicine, there is no cure. hypocrites rightly wrote "Cure rarely, comfort mostly, but console always." Even that advice has been forgotten in this medical business. We do not comfort people. Rather, we scare them to death thus depressing their immune systems dangerously. We do not even console them. Aristotle once said: "Truth is bitter and could only influence half a score of people in a century while falsehood and mystery will drag millions by the nose." This is a good business deal. If you scare the people day in and day out, they will believe the myths as truths and fall prey to our propaganda. One has only to open any newspaper or switch on a television set to miss a few heart beats with the fear that this deadly swine 'flu will engulf the whole population sooner than later.
The masked TV reporters and other masked people around them send people scurrying to shops to buy that holy mask which has made a disappearing act only to raise the price five hundred times!
Mask will not protect healthy people against the disease in society. If one is attending to the infected, one needs to have the mask to avoid direct droplets from the patient falling into the nose or eyes etc. This virus does not float in the air all by itself for the mask to stop it.
The virus is carried in small droplets from the patients' mucus secretions. Mask is a must for every patient to avoid spraying the droplets in his/her surroundings, especially if one is in a crowd or a closed aircraft cabin etc. Every one wearing a mask is good for the mask manufacturers, though! Nothing like avoiding any suspicious surroundings in this time. Avoid unnecessary long distance travel for pleasure. Over crowding helps the virus to spread easily.
Remember that "you catch the virus" which is literally true. Shaking hands is a deadly exercise in this setting. Door knobs, railings, utensils used by an infected person, kissing someone with the virus, close contact with infected people who are incubating the virus, table tops etc carry the virus even up to 48 long hours. Indian system of Namaste is very healthy practice.
Your best bet is to meticulously clean your hands with simple soap and water (not chemical detergent soaps) as frequently as is possible or, at least, before touching your nose, eyes and mouth. During travel or hospital visits one does well to carry a bottle of alcohol hand cleaners for use where soap and water are scarce. They are very effective.
How reliable are the claims by Ayurveda, Homeopathy and other alternate systems?
If one is assured of the authenticity of the individual making such claims, and if one is sure that the person is not making the claim to make a fast buck out of human misery, I could assure you that there are very powerful antiviral drugs in those systems. They have also not been tested against the new avatar of H1N1 virus, but so are drugs like Relenza and Tamiflu not tested against this virus.
There are two triple blind prospective studies of some homeopathic drugs against upper respiratory viruses published years ago in the British Medical Journal.
Ayurveda has many proven methods of immune boosting which is better than most drugs that we sell. In fact, the thousands of years of observational research in Asian herbal medicines, the mother being Ayurveda, is now known to modern hi-tech science to be better than most chemicals used in modern medical therapeutics.
The herbal drugs are supposed to work on every human cell at the cell (software) level while modern medical chemicals which are reductionist work and might help temporarily but they all damage the hard ware of the cell in the long run.
Douglas C Wallace, a noted geneticist in the US, writing in the prestigious journal Genetics shows that herbal drugs are the right choice for therapeutics. He uses the ultra m0dern testing methods using a new chip that he has developed (using mtDNAs) called MTCHIP.
This work makes Ayurveda more scientific than modern medicine. However, one has to have a good scientific Ayurveda doctor to help you. So also homeopathy. Let us not condemn the systems wholesale. We may have fraudulent alternate systems practitioners but the system is not to blame. Do we not have modern medical quacks that sell unwanted interventions and drugs to patients to get their share of the booty called "doctors' hospitality from manufacturers?
Having said that I must add that there are wonderful and very effective methods of immune boosting in Ayurveda. One must take advantage of those methods in these stressful times.
General preventive strategies:
Plenty of rest, adequate sleep, nourishing but, simple foods like fruits and vegetables, not too much spoiled by over cooking and frying, avoiding cooked meat to the extent possible; plenty of water to keep the mucus membranes wet; regular non-strenuous exercise that boosts the immune system, avoiding smoking and alcohol, happy disposition with Yoga and adequate oxygenation of all the cells including those in the immune system by Praanaayaama should help to prevent this dread.
Any hope in the near future?
Nano Silver is a very powerful germ killer without any side effects. It is also powerful against many viruses, although H1N1 has not been tested so far. It is very simple but hi-tech science to extract these particles of silver that are too small to cause any body damage to humans but is deadly to germs. It can be given orally. Although we have published papers in indexed journals in this area I quote an American doctor, Rima Laibow hereunder:
"The Nano silver that we recommend has two properties which we believe render it superior to other products: first, it has the capacity to kill pathogenic organisms, like these bioengineered plagues and second, it has been infused with energetic information (if this is not familiar to you, you need to check out the emerging science of the use of frequency to impact living systems - the dangerous part of it is euphemistically called "non lethal weapons" while the beneficial part is often referred to as "energy medicine" or "frequency medicine" and is related to homeopathy. I have used it in my practice for years and it is rapidly gaining acceptance in countries other than the US, and even slowly there where, for example, the use of light to treat cancer has gained acceptance.
The highly effective Nano silver available through www.Nutronix.com/naturalsolutions has been infused with frequency in a process developed by the brilliant and world-renowned materials scientist, Rustum Roy, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Arizona. I don't wish to discuss this remarkable innovation, but I am convinced that it creates a stable, effective and safe product which will dispatch the virus rapidly, preventing the development of the cytokine storm" that sends patients with ARDS to the ventilators.
If our government permits, we could use this even to prevent illness or to treat in the very initial stages to avoid major calamities. After all this H1N1 in normal, healthy individuals, is a mild disease and is rarely fatal; there are exceptions, though. Most of the media hyped deaths have been in patients who had prior other co-morbidities.
*By and large the so called "swine "flu" is a mild disease, exceptions only prove the rule. Deaths are usually in those cases with depressed immune system or those with dangerous co-morbidities.
Prevention, using simple methods mentioned above, is better than cure, vaccine or drugs. Many systems have antiviral drugs.
Spreading awareness by scaring people though media is a bad strategy, but good business. If the media does not talk about this illness, I think, the illness will make a vanishing trick on its own,
Desperate situations need desperate measures to control. Society should help the government to control the menace. Blaming the minister or the governmental machinery does not help. Let us co-operate with them following simple health rules.
In any epidemic (pandemic) over diagnosis is the rule and not exception. So many times epidemiologists produce epidemics. Epidemiology is an inexact science.
Media should not make a mountain out of a mole hill based on this inexact science.
Not a single diagnosis so far made of swine flu anywhere in the world stands scrutiny of the scientific diagnostic criteria for viral diseases as no one has done falling titres to confirm the diagnosis.
Scientifically, all diagnoses so far are presumptive as the test manufacturers used the term "this test is only a presumptive test" and not confirmative."
A retrospective audit would show the truth of this statement. For example a recent study showed that not even a single patient died of bird 'flu' last time as all diagnoses were presumptive. Now think of the great fuss that was made at that time, thanks to the 24 hours electronic media. Poor birds were killed in trillions! What right did we have to kill them for our imaginary safety?
Thus, it is suggested not to panic and make poor people panic and die of depressed immune systems.
(The writer is Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Science of Healing Outcomes and Retired Vice Chancellor, Manipal University) By Prof. B. M. Hegde (ANI)