New research in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology shows that child doctor appointments for annual exams and vaccinations are associated with an increased risk of flu-like illnesses in children and family members within two weeks of the visit. This risk translates to more than 700,000 potentially avoidable illnesses each year, costing more than $490 million annually and completely ignoring nutritional deficiencies.
Researchers from the University of Iowa used data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to examine the healthcare trends of 84,595 families collected from 1996-2008. Included in the analysis were demographic, office-based, emergency room, and outpatient cases records. After controlling for factors, such as the presence of other children, insurance, and demographics, the authors found that well-child visits for children younger than six years old increased the probability of a flu-like illness in these children or their families during the subsequent two weeks.
According to CDC data, in the past 11 years, 86% of all influenza-type illnesses (ILI) were not caused by the influenza virus, thus influenza viruses are only active 14% of the time. The proportion of ILI caused by influenza viruses varies by year, and even varies within a specific year over the course of the winter.
This incremental risk could amount to more than 700,000 avoidable cases of flu-like illness each year and $492 million in direct and indirect costs, based on established estimates for outpatient influenza.
In a commentary accompanying the study, Lisa Saiman, MD, notes, “The true cost of flu-like illnesses are much higher since only a fraction result in ambulatory visits and many more cases are likely to result in missed work or school days. Furthermore, these flu-like illness visits are associated with inappropriate antimicrobial use.”
Ignoring Nutrition and Relying On Vaccines, Antibiotics, Anti-Viral Drugs
It goes unexplained why health authorities, in an age of antibiotic, vaccine and anti-viral drug resistance, continue to ignore what University of North Carolina researchers call the “the neglected virulence factor: host nutritional status.” The nutritional status of the individual not only controls immunity but also the genetic makeup of the attacking virus, say these researchers, who wrote in 2004 that “the nutritional status of the host, until recently, has not been considered a contributing factor to the emergence of infectious disease.” [Trends Microbiology 2004 Sep; 12(9):417-23].
While antibiotics like erythromycin and chloramphenicol do suppress the growth of bacteria like Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, which are known to secondarily result in flu-related pneumonia, these antibiotics diminish the production of natural antimicrobial peptides such a cathelicidin, a molecule dependent upon vitamin D for synthesis. [FASEB J. 2007 Apr; 21(4):1107-16] Natural immunity is suppressed when antibiotics are used.
Not only does nutritional supplementation help avert flu-related death, but it also improves antibody production. Inoculation against the flu is typically not very effective in generating antibodies among senior adult populations, the greatest at-risk group to develop flu-related pneumonia and to die. Flu vaccination among retirees is only marginally effective in producing adequate antibody response. Well-made multivitamins that include vitamins C, E and E, folic acid and selenium are likely to serve well here. [J Gerontology A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2002 Sep; 57(9):M563-6; Vaccine. 2005 Feb 10; 23(12):1457-63; J Parenteral Enteral Nutrition 2004 Sep-Oct; 28(5):348-54]
Old animals subjected to infectious diseases develop more pronounced inflammation (as evidenced by increased markers of inflammation – COX-2 and TNF-alpha). Vitamin E calms an over-responsive immune reaction. [J Leukocyte Biology 2008 Oct; 84(4):900-14] This is important because the arrival of armies of white blood cells at the site of infection, such as the lungs, can induce inflammation and result in the lungs rapidly filling up with fluid, literally drowning the patient. One experiment shows that vitamin E enhances protective T-cells (white blood cells made in the thymus gland) and inhibits inflammation that results from an over-responsive immune system. [Immunology Review 2005 Jun; 205:269-84]
The risk of children suffering from flu can be reduced by 50% if they take vitamin D. According to research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition only one in ten children, aged six to 15 years, taking the sunshine vitamin in a clinical trial came down with flu compared with one in five given a dummy tablet. Vitamin D was found to be even more effective when the comparison left out children who were already given extra vitamin D by their parents, outside the trial. Taking the sunshine vitamin was then shown to reduce the risk of flu to a third of what it would otherwise be.
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