Like most families, you’re probably being bombarded by the media regarding swine flu: precautions, symptoms, and the availability of the shot.
First, you need to know this: most widely available doses of the swine flu vaccine will contain thimerosal, a mercury-laden preservative that has been removed from most vaccines on the Recommended Immunization Schedule over fears of neurological effects.
Also, there are ways you can protect even the littlest members of your family, without giving them a vaccine.
What? It’s either stock up on the Tamiflu or line up for the vaccine? Not so fast, there…
Let’s start with some of the symptoms. They’ll sound familiar, as some mimic the seasonal flu or colds. The CDC says that indications include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, and possibly diarrhea and vomiting.
So how to prevent? Simply get a shot? If that is your choice for your family, know the difference.
The standard swine flu vaccine currently being administered, the one that contains thimerosal, is called Panderix. The mercury-free version is called Celvapan.
(Drug manufacturers are allowed to call a vaccine “mercury-free” if it has only trace amounts of thimerosal.)
Although the CDC recommends that most seemingly healthy people receive the vaccine, there are other ways to protects your babies. Check out what the CDC said in May:
Breastfeed early and often. Limit formula feeds if you can. This will help protect your baby from infection.
Yep. The Centers for Disease Control suggests breastmilk over formula to help protect your little ones against swine flu. No, breastmilk is no cure. But it may help boost baby’s immune system and make any illness a mild one.
There are other precautions we can take, too. Common sense ones. Wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday To You.” Cover your mouth, throw away used tissues, don’t share food and drink containers. (Basically? Use good manners. Let’s make these rules for non-pandemic living too, shall we?)
And if you or your child(ren) should contract the swine flu…pick up some Tamiflu? Actually, no. The World Health Organization said that most people recover from H1N1 without the aid of the drug. They fear that overuse of the antivirals could lead to a stronger swine flu virus.
Indeed, Denmark first found a case where swine flu was Tamiflu-resistant. Cases have since been found in China, Canada, and the U.S. The WHO, therefore, recommends that these treatments only be used in the more serious swine flu cases, not the mild ones.
Not only that, Tamiflu may be dangerous to children. In one study, kids had exacerbated symptoms after using the remedy, such as vomiting and diahrrea. Another study showed that the drug caused nausea and nightmares in some kids. Simply put, the harm may outweigh the benefits.
The swine flu vaccine may be effective and certainly necessary for select groups in the population. But make sure you know the facts before your family lines up to try out this newly-developed vaccine.
Image: alvi2047 on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Cate Nelson says
Crocius: That is a poor analogy. Mercury, even at low doses, is harmful after exposure over long periods of time. It does not matter the type. (An interview with a former FDA researcher that will post later this week illustrates this.)
Here is the EPA’s guide on mercury in all of its forms. As you can see, it’s not that ethyl mercury is nothing to worry about, as is often claimed, but just that it is in low doses whereas methyl mercury–that found in fish–is found in higher doses due to bioaccumulation.
We are exposed to mercury through many sources: food, water, even vaccines (and when they don’t have mercury, they are preserved with other heavy metals).
I’m not saying that these CA– USE autism or have other immediate neurological effects, but I point out the differences between the brands names of swine flu for those concerned (and I believe, rightly so).
Yes, these are different types of mercury. But because we have continuous, low-dose exposure, some groups may want to be more careful in their exposure.
Cate Nelson says
@Preetam: I should make clear that I am also not a doctor. This is based on my research of WHO recommendations and CDC recommendations.
The WHO and what it says about Tamiflu may be different than what your local health clinic says. But the WHO suggests that Tamiflu only be used in more severe cases and for many people, the swine flu will be relatively mild.
I am not suggesting whether or not people SHOULD get the vaccine. That is for every family to decide on their own. I want those who are concerned about th preservative thimerosal to be able to ask their care provider for the thimerosal-free swine flu vaccine, Celvapan, if they choose.
My family and I will not be getting this vaccine in any form.
(p.s. I am a “Ms.”, not a “Sir”)
While your article is correct that the thimerosal was removed over _fear_ of its effects, it should be pointed out that there was never any evidence to support these fears. The medical community removed thimerosal from vaccines not because it was dangerous, but because people _thought_ it was dangerous and that was/is causing people to stop vaccinating.
Not every mercury compound is harmful the way metallic mercury is, just like the chlorine in table salt has completely different biological effects than the chlorine in carbon tetrachloride, or in chlorine gas.
I have read your article, ‘The Swine Flu vaccine and your family’. Should I understand from what I read that we must opt for Swine Flu vaccine ‘celvapan’ and not the Panderix which contains thimerosal which causes neurologocal effects.
Except from the vaccine, why there is no other type of quick relief injections which can kill the swine flu infection of the human body when someone is infected. There is only Tamiflu which is as you said in some cases not successful.
Please help me clear my doubt. I am not a doctor or physician. Thanks. Preetam
It looks like the manufacturer of Celvapan can’t distribute it in the U.S.
Any other recommendations?
Just did a little more research. It looks like CSL is testing a mercury free version for U.S. distribution.
Cate Nelson says
Thank you for that link, Tiffany!
Ralph Quinlan Forde says
Good for you but why is no one anywhere talking about homeopathy for the swine flu? The French spend 7 million a year on a remedy specifically to treat the flu? Easierto make and has been studied three times.
Thank you for this information. If I may add, another way to avoid the virus is to boost our immune system by eating healthy food; eat green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, more fish meat rather than red meat, drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, and take vitamins with minerals daily.
santosh Patil says
Hello, this Article is informative and also good content based on swine flu, which is the most current fear, everyone in minds. I really like this Article and also request to u that please keep it up….
I have some important comment on swine flu which is available on this link http://www.jiyohealthy.com/2009/08/swine-flu-rumors-in-india and also tell your comments
Like you, I also researched the data from the CDC and other reputable sources to make the decision not to vaccinate our family. It’s important that parents inform themselves before making this decision, or having someone make it for them.
We’ll protect our family against flu and cold season like we have in the past: washing our hands frequently, avoiding places like the children’s museum during the peak of the season, getting lots of rest, eating a healthy diet and moving our body.
Thank you for posting this article. I am currently 4 months pregnant and have a 8 month old baby at home. I want to make the right decision for my health and the health of my family, but I just don’t know what to do! What if my doctor doesn’t offer the mercury-free version? Is the swine flu even something to be this worried about, or is it just the hype from the media causing the extra concern?
I’ve spoken with a nurse from the local infectious diseases unit and she told me that the general opinion in the hospital is that swine flu is less dangerous than ‘normal’ flu – in fact they’ve had fewer deaths from this swine flu than they had with the usual flu last year.
She also said that, generally speaking, unless you are immuno-compromised, the sensible precautions already given above should be enough to protect you. If you do get infected then follow the usual rules – lots of rest, fluids, decent multi-vits, pain relief for aches etc.
This nurse mentioned a pregnant woman who came into the hospital and wanted to be admitted over concern for her baby. They had a real job to persuade her that she wasn’t that ill and dosage with Tamiflu might do more harm than good. The only pregnant women who have died from swine flu (according to this nurse) were those who already had cancer/heart disease.
Apparently all Tamiflu does is speed up the progress of the disease so you’re sick for one day less. That isn’t worth it unless you are already so sick that one day’s extra illness can be fatal. Also, apparently, if you take Tamiflu when you don’t need it and then contract swine flu the drug may be useless when it’s really needed.
Said nurse also mentioned the very nasty possible after-effects of the vaccine. One young woman has developed an auto-immune disease after vaccination which blisters your whole body and she is likely to die from it. None of the nurses known to the woman I spoke with have opted for the vaccine. The hospital has also been dealing with people suffering from liver and kidney complications after taking Tamiflu.
Basically just be careful, wash your hands regularly (AND ALWAYS BEFORE EATING! Why does no-one seem to do this any more? Just look around any cafe or coffee shop!) and look after yourself if you do start with symptoms. Remember, panic and fear sell newspapers; reasoned and logical advice do not.
Usual proviso applies: I am not a doctor so if symptoms are severe it’s worth getting yourself checked out.
aaa handbag says
I don’t like to give my child a flu shot
Lucky the swine flu outbreak has been controlled. But i think there will be some huge coming up soon. Another money making opportunity for the medical industry. sigh