Should I get the flu vaccine to prevent influenza?
In one word: Yes!
A recent report by the CDC estimates that the last season’s flu vaccine was about 45% effective in preventing infection, and while it is unknown how effective this year’s vaccine will be, vaccination remains the single most effective method for 2020 flu prevention. While the vaccination is not perfect, any reduction in the incidence of influenza is a smart strategy. When you add the risks of COVID-19, preventing the flu becomes even more urgent this year.
To improve upon these odds we recommend that our vaccinated patients also address overall immune system health with anti-viral strategies that do not depend on the specific strain of flu to which you are exposed. Taken together, we recommend you be vaccinated and follow common sense preventive strategies and support your immune system for a maximum 2020 flu prevention strategy.
When is the flu season?
The CDC notes that flu season’s timing varies from year to year — it can peak from as early as October to as late as May, with highest outbreaks in February.
Did you know the most common flu medication, Tamiflu, is derived from the spice Star Anise?
2020 flu prevention: What else can I do to avoid the flu?
Since no flu shot can guarantee complete immunity, we advocate that the following can provide a measure of protection that may improve the 45% protection offered by available vaccines.
#1 Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds!
Obvious but we often forget how important this is for preventing viral spread.
#2 Echinacea purpurea
Echinacea stimulates immune cells to release more anti-viral molecules and decreases virus-induced inflammatory pathways. The most relevant mechanism of Echinacea for the flu virus is through the Hemagglutinin receptor (the “H” in H3N2). This is the receptor that the virus uses to enter the cell and Echinacea binds directly to the Hemagglutinin receptor, thereby blocking entry of any flu virus, regardless of the specific strain. The key is that the Echinacea components must be in circulation and at high enough doses that they can occupy a significant number of receptors. So, take it preventatively and take higher doses at the first sign of illness or exposure.
#3 Elderberry (sambucus nigra)
Elderberry contains the phytochemical Sambucol, which has been shown to inhibit the replication of influenza virus types A and B and decrease the virulence of the human influenza virus by inhibiting neuraminidase, the “N” in H1N1 and H3N2. The activity of Elderberry tincture against the H1N1 virus was attributed to a variety of flavonoids shown to bind to H1N1 and in H3N2 virions and block the ability of the virus to infect host cells, including the neuraminidase inhibition. In clinical trials, treatment with Sambucol decreased the duration of illness in patients with influenza. This follows the same idea as Echinacea dosing, where it must be in circulation at the time of exposure.
#4 Vitamin D3
Vitamin D strengthens your innate immunity by making you more impenetrable to any microbe, viral or bacterial. One way that Vitamin D does this is through the upregulation of anti-microbial proteins on the surfaces of the respiratory tract, digestive tract, eyes, skin and urinary tract. Furthermore, D3 seems to inhibit certain viral signaling pathways needed for replication, thereby decreasing the spread through the body. The best way to know if you need vitamin D is to get tested to determine your current levels.
Immunity Kit Dosing:
EHB (Echinacea combo supplement): 3 caps per day preventive, 3 caps 3 times per day at first sign of illness.
Sambucus tincture: 2 droppers twice per day preventive, 2 droppers 4 times per day at first sign of illness.
Vitamin D3: 5,000IU per day preventive, get your levels tested for more precise dosing.
For more on your specific immune needs, call to ask our friendly staff for assistance.
Pleschka S, Stein M, Schoop R, Hudson JB. Anti-viral properties and mode of action of standardized Echinacea purpurea extract against highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1, H7N7) and swine-origin H1N1 (S-OIV). Virol J. 2009;6:197.
Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res 2004;32:132–140.
Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med 1995;1:361–369.
Beard JA, Bearden A, Striker R. Vitamin D and the anti-viral state. J Clin Virol. 2011;50(3):194-200.
Updated 11/2/20 | Featured photo by Brittany Colette on Unsplash