Media coverage of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has incited fear among the American public, emptied Chinatowns all over North America and stopped much of the travel between the U.S., Toronto, Canada, China, Taiwan and southeast Asia. While SARS is an urgent concern for the World Health Organization, a larger worry on the horizon for the world health agency is the flu–the long awaited influenza pandemic.
The flu pandemic has historically occurred at 25-30 year intervals and its destruction has been cataclysmic. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, for example, killed more than 40 million people worldwide (670,000 Americans alone). The most recent flu pandemic struck 35 years ago and killed more than 4 million people. SARS, by comparison, has caused less than one thousand deaths and is much less infectious. Dr. Klaus Stohr, the head of the influenza program at the World Health Organization who is also leading the agency’s fight against SARS said in a Wall Street Journal interview, “We are not prepared for the devastation of a flu pandemic… SARS will be something to smile about,” he said.
Regarding the likelihood of a major flu pandemic striking in the near future, Albert Osterhaus, a Dutch scientist involved in pandemic preparedness in Europe said in the same Wall Street article, “It’s not a matter of if, but when, this will happen. I am far more scared of a flu pandemic than I am of SARS.” The flu, SARS and other communicable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are the twenty-first century’s major heath challenges.
Overcrowding and global travel have increased the risk of diseases spreading unchecked. However, the real threat lies in a virus’s ability to undergo small changes or mutations that evade people’s natural immunities or commercial vaccinations. Similarly, the widespread use of antibiotics in poultry and meat producing industries has enabled bacteria to become stronger and more resistant. According to some critics, even our current medical practices of over-prescribing antibiotics may contribute to the rise of “super-bugs”!
When these “new” microbes strike, they move quickly and wipe out victims, leaving a wide path of destruction. The West Nile and Ebola viruses, for example, both have at least a 90% mortality rate.
Don’t panic. You can prevent or minimize your chance of contracting infectious diseases both at home or while traveling. Some of my recommendations are common sense:
Wash your hands frequently
Avoid touching your face
Eat well-cooked foods
Maintain a distance from someone who is sick
Avoid crowded and poor ventilated places
Sometimes you cannot help but travel on airplanes, meet with someone who may appear to be sick, eat out at a restaurant or be in a crowded place. Therefore you must make sure that your immune Glucofort system is functioning at a peak level. This involves avoiding activities that would weaken or deplete your immune system and engage in immune strengthening and supporting actions. Below I have outlined a checklist of things to avoid:
Stress and negative emotions
Overwork and over-exhaustion
Diet high in sugar, caffeine and refined products
Under or over-exercise
Frequent use of antibiotics, steroids or immuno-suppresant drugs
Many people who were exposed to SARS, Ebola, the West Nile virus or the flu virus never came down with the infection. The reason is simple: Their immune systems are much stronger and better equipped to fend off the viruses than those who came down with the illnesses. I have outlined below actions to strengthen your immune system:
Reduce stress and maintain equanimity
Get plenty of rest and sleep
Pace yourself at work and in your life
Eat a healthy diet consisting of high fiber, low fat and at least nine servings of vegetables and fruits each day
Moderate daily exercise including cardiovascular and light weight training
Avoid drugs and chemicals whenever possible