Preventing Swine Flu and the flu in general, and avoiding vaccine side effects

Although to date the H1N1 (or “swine flu”) vaccine has not been released, there is already talk about it becoming mandatory. Concern among parents and others, including people who have not vaccinated before, is that this time they should.

When deciding whether to vaccinate of not, consider that even though swine flu has spread rapidly across the world, most people who had it experienced unusually mild flu symptoms. In rare cases it affects the lungs causing pneumonia, which could become life-threatening.

Though I believe that the risk of these severe complications can be all but eliminated with a few natural precautions, no one can prove definitively that this is so.

Also consider that the swine flu vaccine is not just the usual flu vaccine adapted to a new strain, it is a newly engineered vaccine. Given how quickly it is being developed, it is impossible to rule out the risk of potentially severe side effects that may only become apparent after the vaccine is released in the population.

There is a historic precedent to this. In 1976 the United States was hit by a similar swine flu virus and, just like today, there was a great deal of concern for its possible deadly consequences. Also just as we are seeing now, there was a huge rush to produce a vaccine that, once released, was found to cause an often-fatal neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).
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Dealing with the latest flu scare

When it comes to flu scares, I guess you could consider me a skeptic. Basically I continue to see the flu as a mild though annoying seasonal illness that can be effectively prevented, or its impact lessened, with a few simple measures.

Over centuries there have been a small number of more severe flu outbreaks that caused thousands of deaths over short periods of time. While the risk of such an outbreak in our lifetimes is remote, it does exist, as do the risk of being struck by lightning, being run over by a car, or drowning at the beach.

If and when a severe flu outbreak does strike it will be from a suddenly mutated strain of the flu virus and vaccines will be of no use. In fact, there will be little to do aside from the simple preventive measures I am about to discuss below.
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