November 2010|Vol 7|Issue 11

November 2010 | Volume 7 | Issue 11


Swine Flu and Homoeopathy


Dr. Shashi Shekhar Shitanshu, MD (Hom)
C/O Shri Kamal Walia
113 A/1, Lane No. 8, Lajwanti Gardens,
New Delhi – 110046
Phone: 09718547567

         Word began to flow out of Mexico in April 2009 that over 150 deaths suspected to have been caused by a new strain of influenza commonly referred to as swine flu. Though few cases of this influenza were first identified in mid-April 2009 in California, it was soon followed thereafter in Texas and Mexico. Scientists who examined the flu announced that this was a new strain of Influenza A (H1N1) derived partly from swine flu, partly from human flu and partly from avian flu strains. The two bits of information released in succession created a global panic.

    This panic had three elements. The first related to the global nature of this disease, given that flu spread easily and modern transportation flows mean containment is impossible. Second, there were concerns that this flu would have a high mortality rate. And third, the panic centered on the mere fact that this disease was the ‘flu’.

    News of this new strain triggered memories of the 1918-1919 flu pandemic, sparking fears that the “Spanish flu” that struck at the end of World War I would be repeated. In addition, the scare over avian flu created a sense of foreboding about influenza — a sense that a catastrophic outbreak was imminent. Of the three pandemics that occurred in the 1900s, two involved reassorted viruses, but none were reassortants with swine viruses (Table 1).

    Within a week, the disease was being reported around the world. It became clear that the disease was spreading, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared on 11th of June 2009, a Phase 5 pandemic alert (Figure 1). A Phase 5 alert meant that a global pandemic is imminent, and that the virus proved capable of sustained human-to-human transmission and infecting geographically disparate populations.

    Figure 1: Phases of pandemic influenza

    To the medical mind, the word “pandemic” denotes a disease occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population. Thus, to get a clear view, let us go through some general information about influenza A viruses.

    · Influenza A viruses are negative-sense single-stranded RNA viruses and belong to the family Orthomyxoviridae and the genus Influenza virus A. 

    · There are 16 different HA antigens (H1 to H16) and nine different NA antigens (N1 to N9) for influenza A.

    · Human disease historically has been caused by three subtypes of HA (H1, H2, and H3) and two subtypes of NA (N1 and N2). More recently, human disease has been recognized to be caused by additional HA subtypes, including H5, H7, and H9 (all from avian origin).

    · All of these subtypes have been found in birds, and birds are the primordial reservoir for influenza A viruses.

    · Several subtypes have been found in pigs also. A recent molecular analysis of the H1N1 virus demonstrated that the virus possesses a distinctive evolutionary trait that may be characteristic in pig-human interspecies transmission of influenza A.

    Transmission & Incubation
    · H1N1 virus is transmitted in ways similar to other influenza viruses, including large-particle respiratory droplet transmission; transmission via aerosols is also important.

    · The estimated incubation period is unknown and could range from 1 to 7 days, although the incubation period for most cases will likely range from 1 to 4 days.

    The recent swine flu experience raises the question of how one would attempt to grapple with a genuine high-mortality pandemic with major consequences. The answer divides into two parts: how to control the spread, and how to deploy treatments.

    Any time such threats are recognized, they already are beyond containment. The virus is faster than news of the virus. The flu virus is widely present in two species other than humans, namely, birds and pigs. The history of the disease is the history of its transmission within and across these three species. It is comparatively easy for the disease to transmit from swine to birds and from swine to humans; the bird-to-human barrier is the most difficult to cross.
    Cross-species influenza is of particular concern. In the simplest terms, viruses are able to recombine (e.g., human flu and avian flu can merge into a hybrid flu strain). What comes out can be flu transmissible to humans, but with a physical form that is distinctly avian — meaning it fails to alert human immune systems to the intrusion. This can rob the human immune system of the ability to quickly recognize the disease and put up a fight.

    Thus in all at least 214 countries and territories reported H1N1 activity. The cumulative number of deaths from pandemic H1N1 influenza reported to WHO regional offices as on Aug 1, 2010, was at least 18,449, a total WHO acknowledges significantly understates the actual number.

    The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that from April 2009 to March 13, 2010 in the U.S. there were between:

    · 43 million and 88 million cases of 2009 H1N1

    · 192,000 and 398,000 H1N1-related hospitalizations

    · 8,720 and 18,050 2009 H1N1-related deaths

    The CDC has maintained that actual data on hospitalizations and deaths is grossly under-reported. Data is gained from laboratory-confirmed outcomes and unfortunately that includes “incomplete testing, inaccurate test results, or diagnosis that attribute hospitalizations and deaths to other causes, for example, secondary complications to influenza.
    In India the cumulative figure for laboratory confirmed cases is 33783 since April, 2009 till date out of which a total of 1624 deaths. But recently there is an increased incidence since June 2010 in few states. During the 1st week of July 2010, there have been 178 cases of laboratory confirmed H1N1 infection with 8 deaths alone in Kerala State alone.
    At present persistent viral activity is limited to areas in South Asia, particularly India and New Zealand, and a few areas of tropical South and Central America.

    Present Status: H1N1 in post-pandemic period
    On 10th August 2010, WHO declared that the world is no longer in phase 6 of influenza pandemic alert. This does not mean that the H1N1 virus has gone away. Based on experience with past pandemics, it is expected that the H1N1 virus will take on the behaviour of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come. Based on available evidence and experience from past pandemics, it is likely that the virus will continue to cause serious disease in younger age groups, at least in the immediate post-pandemic period. Groups identified during the pandemic at higher risk of severe or fatal illness will probably remain at heightened risk, though hopefully the number of such cases will diminish.

    Many government bodies around the world had recommended H1N1 influenza vaccine to protect against getting sick. Besides the challenges of production, distribution and effective administration of medications on a scale never attempted before, the main concern rests in the statistics of developed vaccinations. By the end of Feb. 2010, an estimated 72 – 81 million people had been vaccinated against 2009 H1N1. Unfortunately with a population of 300 million in the United States alone, many people are still susceptible particularly as 2009 H1N1 is still circulating.

    Experts have always generated fears about an H1N1 swine flu mutation. This is not uncommon; viruses mutate to survive and the H1N1 seasonal virus (not the same as the H1N1 swine flu), has built up a resistance to Tamiflu as seen in 75 cases worldwide reports WHO [10].

    Many people have reservations when it comes to getting the swine flu vaccine, and some of the big ones include whether to get a vaccine or not and what are the side effects from getting a swine flu vaccine. Some of the major drawbacks of Swine flu vaccination are as follows:-

    Regarding History of Flu vaccination
    · The 1976 swine flu outbreak’s vaccine caused about 500 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), resulting in death from severe pulmonary complications for 25 people, probably caused by an immunopathological reaction to the vaccine.1 5,000 people sought benefits for vaccine injuries.

    · This past June, HHS Secretary Sebelius invoked manufacturer immunity to lawsuits resulting from any new swine flu vaccine, removing incentive for vaccine manufacturers to take all available safety precautions along with any civil remedy for those who will inevitably be harmed—an alarming concern, since serious adverse events occur with the widespread use of any vaccine.

    Regarding Reliability of Vaccine

    · Vaccine manufacturer Baxter recently shipped vaccines with live avian flu virus to 18 countries, which could have launched a global pandemic. Experts say that given the Bio-level safety 3 protocols Baxter employs, it is virtually impossible for the cross contamination to have been the mistake Baxter claims.

    · Peer-reviewed studies show that seasonal flu vaccines have been of virtually no benefit to babies, children with asthma, adults, or the elderly [18]. Tom Jefferson, a Cochrane Collaboration epidemiologist who “knows the flu vaccine literature better than anyone else on the planet” says the vast majority of flu studies favoring vaccination were deeply flawed.

    Regarding reservations of authorities and experts about the H1N1 Vaccine
    · Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s flu chief, warned about the potential dangers of the untested vaccines: “There are certain areas where you simply do not try to make any economies. One of the things which cannot be compromised is the safety of vaccines”.

    · Arthur Schafer, director of the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, says that rushing the H1N1 vaccine for fall is unethical, and that the public should be informed about its uncertain safety and effectiveness.

    · The Czech Republic has refused Baxter’s swine flu vaccine over safety concerns.

    · The Lancet recently stated: “Countries need to assess carefully the risks and benefits of the rapid approval of a human swine flu vaccine to avoid the repeat of past problems with mass-vaccination”.

    · World Health Organization officials have warned that H1N1 vaccines may be unsafe.

    · Drug Policy Researcher Alan Cassels and Professional Ethics Director Arthur Schafer recently questioned the safety and effectiveness of the H1N1 vaccine.

    · German parliament and European Council health committee chair Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg has warned of possible cancer and other side effects from the H1N1 vaccines worse than the swine flu virus.

    Regarding questions on pandemic flu policy
    · University of Ottawa Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization makes a convincing case that swine flu data has been deliberately manipulated to justify the current worldwide public health emergency.

    · A CBS News exclusive study of state results found that H1N1 is not nearly as prevalent as feared—that most people diagnosed as probably or presumed H1N1 probably did not.

    Objections by public and healthcare workers to flu vaccination
    · One-third of UK nurses polled say they will refuse the vaccine over safety issues, while another third are unsure (8-18-09). Half of Hong Kong health care workers say they’ll refuse the swine flu vaccine (8-26-09). 65% of French healthcare workers will refuse the swine flu vaccines over safety concerns (9-24-09). Healthcare workers in NY obtained a restraining order to prevent enforcement of the state health department’s directive that health care workers be vaccinated against swine flu and seasonal flu. Two U.S. polls reveal that a majority of Americans do not want the swine flu vaccine; one reveals a majority think there is no swine flu emergency, despite President Obama’s declaration.

    Homoeopathy: A Safer and Proven Alternative

    Homoeopathy, since its discovery has been used successfully in treating epidemic conditions like cholera, scarlet fever, purpura miliaris, influenza, diphtheria, measles, mumps, pertussis, chicken pox. Hahnemann administered Belladonna during an epidemic of scarlet fever in 1800 with very high success rate enough to baffle the physicians of the conventional school. Hahnemann also used Camphora, Cuprum met., and Veratrum album in the treatment of Asiatic cholera epidemic and Cuprum met. for prevention of cholera successfully.

    Homoeopathic medicines used by homoeopathic physicians in USA in the treatment during 1918-1919 influenza epidemics were highly successful. In 1921, W.A. Dewey., published the positive role of homoeopathic medicines in a paper published in the Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy entitled “Homeopathy in Influenza – A Chorus of Fifty in Harmony”. In Philadelphia 26,795 cases of influenza were treated by homeopathic physicians and had a mortality rate of 1.05% as compared to the mortality rate of 30 % when treated with conventional medicines. In Connecticut, only 55 deaths (<1%) were recorded out of the 6,602 cases treated. Dr. Wieland reported influenza in 8000 workers with only one death in a factory in Chicago. Most of the patients were treated with Gelsemium, Arsenicum album, Phosphorus, etc.

    Several clinical studies have been conducted worldwide which shows the effectiveness of homoeopathic medicines in epidemic diseases like whooping cough with Pertussin 30, Leptospira nosode 200 CH in leptospirosis infection, Meningococcal disease in Brazil with individualized homoeopathic medicines in the year 1974, Eupatorium perfoliatum 200 C in Chikungunya, homeopathically selected medicines in dengue fever, etc. All these studies justify the use of homoeopathic medicines both as curative and preventive.

    Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy, a premier research organization for homoeopathy in India has carried out several studies in the wake of epidemics of cholera, gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis and viral fever, Japanese encephalitis and chikungunya.

    The government of India states, “Flu like illnesses may also be prevented through homeopathy”. The Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH) has recommended Arsenicum album, a homeopathic medicine for protection against such flu like conditions.

    The universal appeal of homoeopathy across time immemorial is attributable to its firm working principles and rational approach – treat the patient and not the disease has remained as strong as it was from its inception. The treatment and prevention of swine flu (unknown during Hahnemannian era) thus do not pose any threat even 167 years after Hahnemann’s death.