Strengthen your immune system against Covid with help of Vitamin D, zinc and pickles

Strengthen your immune system against Covid with help of Vitamin D, zinc and pickles

  • October 24, 2020

Winter is coming and a ­second wave of Covid-19 is already with us, so it has never been more important to strengthen your ­immunity.

Along with hand-­washing, masks and social ­distancing, it’s the best defence we have against the coronavirus.

A vaccine is still some way off and scientists warn that without one there is no hope of achieving the herd immunity needed to end the pandemic.

Boosting your own immunity makes sense, and studies show there is lots you can do.

A balanced diet is key, but there are certain nutrients that are particularly important – and scientists have been working hard to find the stars that can help in the Covid battle.

Take these simple steps to strengthen your immune system and keep you well through the tough winter ahead:

ULTIMATE D-FENCE



Vitamin D supplements can really help boost you

Vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones and muscles, is often known as the sunshine vitamin – giving a big clue as to why we don’t get enough in winter.

While it can be found in some foods, including oily fish, red meat and eggs, our bodies grab the majority of what they need from exposure to sunlight.

One in five Brits is deficient, with the number increasing as the nights draw in.

And that’s why the official advice is to consider taking a supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D
(the equivalent of 400IU) during winter.

But as well as keeping bones strong, this simple vitamin could also play a key role in the fight against Covid-19.

A super-study published earlier this year, which analysed results from 39 trials, found that taking 10mcg of the sunshine vitamin reduced the risk of respiratory infections by up to 23 per cent.

More recently, researchers at the University of Birmingham, who tested blood samples from 392 healthcare staff, found that 72per cent of those who were deficient in vitamin D had also caught Covid-19.

By contrast, only 51 per cent of those with good levels carried antibodies confirming they had been infected.

Covidence-UK, a study that uses monthly surveys of UK ­citizens to identify potential risk factors for Covid-19, has also ­identified a link.

Researchers are launching a randomised control trial to see if providing free vitamin D to people with low levels reduces their odds of catching the virus. To sign up and support the ­Covidence-UK search for ways to reduce the risk of Covid-19, visit qmul.ac.uk/covidence.

PICKLE POWER



Pickles can help you battle against winer ailments

Some scientists believe it’s no ­accident that countries where cabbage and fermented ­vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, are popular, have reported lower coronavirus death rates.

Dr Jean Bousquet, Honorary Professor of Pulmonary Medicine at Montpellier University, France, has calculated that every gram of fermented vegetables eaten each day reduces the risk of dying of Covid-19 by 35 per cent.

A similar pattern was seen in countries where a lot of cabbage is consumed, and Professor ­Bousquet believes the benefits are down to high levels of the ­antioxidant sulforaphane in them.

He adds: “Nutrition may play a role in the immune defence against Covid and may explain some of the differences seen in Covid across Europe. I’ve now changed my diet, and it includes raw cabbage three times a week, sauerkraut once a week and pickled vegetables.”

ZINC AGAIN

Dozens of studies have underlined the importance of zinc for strong ­immunity. And the World Health Organisation confirms it, saying: “Zinc is thought to help decrease ­susceptibility to acute lower ­respiratory tract infections by ­regulating various immune functions.”

Zinc can be found in shellfish, beans and lentils, but eight per cent of adults here in the UK do not get the ­recommended intake.

Research has shown that taking zinc within 24 hours of cold symptoms appearing cuts the duration of ­infections by a third.

Excitingly, studies have confirmed zinc inhibits Covid-19 – and there is evidence it may boost levels of ­interferon, a protein that helps our immune system identify threats.

GUT REACTION



Having a healthy gut is vital

The balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut has a big impact on ­immunity. Dr Bousquet’s research has also identified a link between fermented dairy products, such as yoghurt and kefir, and a lower rate of deaths from the virus.

A recent Chinese study discovered that probiotic drinks that contained a combination of lactobacillus bacteria reduced the risk of respiratory infections by 59 per cent.

Another study, published in the European Journal of Public Health, found that children who were given daily ­probiotic supplements werearound a third less likely to needantibiotics.

JUICY INFORMATION



Orange juice and fresh orange help in the battle

A 150ml glass of orange juice provides more than 80 per cent of the immune-strengthening vitamin C that we need each day.

But there is growing scientific interest around another nutrient in orange juice, which could be even more important for our immunity.

Hesperidin, a micronutrient found in citrus fruit, slows the rate that viruses can replicate. Laboratory tests showed such strong antiviral activity that some scientists think it could be used to develop new drugs against dreaded influenza.

A recent study showed it locks on to key proteins on the Covid-19 virus, which could make it harder for ­infection to take hold.

Because the highest concentrations are found in the pith of fruit, juice will have more hesperidin in it than whole fruit. Shop-bought orange juice contains three times more hesperidin than juice squeezed at home.

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Why you can’t escape the flu and COVID-19 just by ‘boosting’ your immunity

  • October 20, 2020

Article content continued

“Even the effectiveness of multivitamins is disputable because they contain a lot of things you don’t actually need,” Lager says. “If you need to supplement something because you aren’t getting it in your diet, then take the actual supplement you need rather than a multivitamin.”

Taking excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals can also be pointless and sometimes harmful.

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“Vitamin C deficiency in North America is extremely rare and because it’s water soluble, taking excessive amounts of it just means it will be excreted in your urine,” Cross says. “While Zinc has shown to have some beneficial properties, taking too much of it will cause deficiencies in other trace minerals, so you should really only be doing that based on a doctor’s recommendation.”

The one exception to the rule is vitamin D, where deficiencies in this protein are linked to an increased risk of infection. The problem is, not many foods are rich in vitamin D, which means taking this supplement is recommended — at the appropriate dose, of course.

Cross also says she takes an omega-3 supplement because she doesn’t get enough of it in her daily diet.

“Remember that if there was one supplement that truly optimized your immune system, then it wouldn’t be available only via multi-level marketing or in health food stores — it would be properly regulated,” Langer says.

At the end of the day, living a healthy lifestyle — a balanced diet, exercise and lots of sleep — is what will give you the best chance of keeping the flu and other illnesses at bay.

Intravenous Vitamin Therapy: A Natural, Effective Solution for the Flu

Intravenous Vitamin Therapy: A Natural, Effective Solution for the Flu

  • October 19, 2020

By Dr. Mahboubeh Hashemi, ND and Dr. Matthew Cavaiola, ND 

As fall and winter are fast approaching, many people, and maybe you, are anxious about what’s in store for this flu season.  This year’s flu season promises to be even more dramatic as it intersects with the ever-continuing health pandemic that continues across the globe and in our communities.  Flu prevention, therefore, may be more important than it ever has been before.  

Did you know that there are many action steps that you can take now to help your body’s immune system stay strong?  Making sure to eat a healthy diet, devoid of large quantities of refined sugar, is a great starting point.  Dr. Matthew Cavaiola, ND, co-founder of Conscious Human Medicine in downtown Santa Monica, stated “One of the biggest culprits for suppressing your body’s immune system and making you more susceptible to viral infections is sugar.  Eating foods high in sugar can weaken your white blood cells, a crucial part of your immune system, for 5 hours or longer.”  Other extremely important factors to take into consideration when trying to boost the health of your immune system include getting adequate sleep, reducing your stress levels and making sure that you have adequate vitamin D levels in your blood.  Dr. Cavaiola added “Naturopathic doctors can run laboratory tests to determine the health of your immune system and guide you in coming up with a comprehensive and individualized plan to prevent you from getting sick.” 

One of the most cutting-edge therapies that you should consider this flu season is Intravenous (IV) Vitamin Therapy.  IV Vitamin Therapy, especially the Myer’s IV Treatment, delivers the most important immune-boosting nutrients, like vitamin C, B vitamins and magnesium, directly into your bloodstream.  It is nearly impossible to reach optimal levels when taking these vitamins orally as compared to IV Vitamin Therapy. This is because when you take vitamins by mouth they have to be processed by the body and their absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is often impaired.  When the body becomes supersaturated with these powerhouse vitamins using IV Vitamin Therapy, white blood cells are strengthened and this helps them respond faster when you are exposed to a virus.  If you do get sick with the flu, IV Vitamin Therapy has also been shown to reduce the intensity and duration of an illness.  

One of the most important immune-enhancing vitamins that you can receive while doing IV Vitamin Therapy is Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is stored in your white blood cells and helps specialized immune cells called Natural Killer Cells (NK cells), T cells and B cells in fighting viral and bacterial infections.  High-dose Intravenous Vitamin C (IVC) is a specialized IV Vitamin treatment where 10-50 grams of Vitamin C is infused directly into your bloodstream over the course of one to two hours.  If you have ever taken vitamin C by mouth, you may realize that you can only take a certain amount before you get loose stools or intestinal upset.  This is because vitamin C draws water into the intestines.  Intravenous Vitamin C goes directly into your bloodstream, bypasses the intestines and thus you are able to take levels 5-25 times higher than you can tolerate orally. Dr. Mahboubeh Hashemi, ND, co-founder of Conscious Human Medicine stated, “We have seen amazing results using high-dose IVC in our practice to help our patients prevent viral infections and to reduce the severity and duration of a cold or virus, including the flu. High-dose IVC can even help in support against Lyme disease and other chronic viral infections, like Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Hepatitis.”  She added “It is always important to work with a naturopathic doctor who can make sure that IV Vitamin Therapy and High-dose Vitamin C are safe for you and who can come up with a holistic treatment plan designed just for you.” 

So, this flu season, consider IV Nutritional Therapy and High-dose Intravenous Vitamin C to prevent getting sick and help take the health of your immune system to the next level! 

OPINION: The flu vaccine is a necessity, this year more than ever

OPINION: The flu vaccine is a necessity, this year more than ever

  • October 15, 2020


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Flu season is often characterized as a time where people are bound to get sick, and, for the most part, people view the flu as an unfortunate inconvenience that has them bedridden for a few days at most. Because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, common illnesses such as the flu can cause an array of problems for people who are infected, this year in particular.

In light of the pandemic, IU is now requiring its students and employees who are regularly on campus to get a flu vaccine before Dec. 1. They are also offering the vaccines at no cost to its students this semester, which is an amazing initiative that can ultimately save lives on campus.

It’s great IU is providing and even requiring flu vaccinations for its students this year, and it’s essential students take initiative and get a flu vaccine as early as possible.

Getting your flu shot early is the best way to go about getting your vaccination. It takes about two weeks for the antibodies needed to fight the flu to develop in your immune system. If you haven’t scheduled your shot yet, it’s something you should consider looking into as soon as you can.

People can be indifferent when it comes to a flu vaccine. It’s a seasonal vaccine, meaning it is only effective on a year-to-year basis. Some people go out of their way to ensure they are vaccinated every year, while others only get it if it’s convenient to do so, such as at a doctor’s appointment or at their place of employment.

Others don’t get the flu vaccine, even when it is convenient to do so. Flu vaccine coverage for adults in the U.S. was 45.3% during the 2018-19 season. Yearly coverage is an important factor in determining the severity of a particular flu season because it indicates how many people already have an immune boost that helps them fight off the disease.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these common and usually minor diseases like the flu can cause a multitude of issues, primarily the complications that can occur if someone is infected with both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

If this were to happen, the diseases together can cause respiratory issues and progress to pneumonia, or even respiratory failure. They can have long-term effects on the respiratory system and can inhibit the lung’s ability to absorb oxygen, which affects all the other major organ systems in the body.

A flu shot is an easy and effective way to reduce the chances of becoming seriously ill from these diseases, no matter how old you are. Even if you don’t think you are at risk, this is something that can happen to anyone of any health background.

The flu vaccine protects not only yourself, but also those around you who may not be able to get a vaccination due to other underlying conditions. It boosts your own immune system, and it plays an essential role in herd immunity.

In addition to this, having a large percentage of people getting a flu shot will play a major role in keeping hospitalizations down, and prevent an overwhelmed health care system. This way, people who truly need help get the attention they need, and unnecessary deaths can easily be avoided.

It’s important to stay vigilant during these uncertain times, even though it can be difficult. It may seem like a hassle now to schedule a flu shot, but the preventative actions we take today can save lives tomorrow.

Aidan Kramer (she/her) is a freshman studying microbiology and environmental science. After graduating, she plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in pathology.

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8 Supplements Dietitians Are Taking During Cold and Flu Season

8 Supplements Dietitians Are Taking During Cold and Flu Season

  • October 15, 2020

Key Takeaways

  • Not all “immune-boosting” supplements will help keep you healthy during cold and flu season.
  • The dietitians we spoke with only take certain supplements for immune support, and some are only taken once a cold or the flu sets in.

Cold and flu season is upon us, which for some means loading up on “immunity-boosting” supplements and remedies. While some people take supplements by the handful during this time of the year, nutrition experts tend to only keep a few key options in their medicine cabinet during the chillier months. 

Since supplements are largely unregulated in the United States, non-food remedies that claim to prevent the flu or keep you healthy may overpromise and underdeliver. Yet supplement sales continue to climb, with revenue from vitamin and nutritional supplement production reaching nearly 31 billion dollars in the United States in 2018.

So which supplements are worth the investment? While remaining mindful about the different nutritional needs and requirements unique to each person, we asked registered dietitians what they keep stocked in their own homes during cold and flu season.

Dietitians are all about evidence-based recommendations, so it’s worthwhile to take a virtual peek into their medicine cabinets. Just make sure to get the green light from your doctor before you start any supplementation plan. 

Vitamin D

One vitamin seemingly popular among the registered dietitian community is vitamin D. “Supplementation of vitamin D is critical to help ward off infections,” Brittany Scanniello, RD, a Colorado-based registered dietitian tells Verywell. In addition to assisting with calcium absorption and bone health, vitamin D’s role “includes effects on cell proliferation as well as immune-supporting effects,” she says.

Melissa Azzarro, RD, a New Hampshire-based registered dietitian and author of A Balanced Approach To PCOS, also takes vitamin D during the cold and flu season.

“Since I am indoors more often, my body is not making this important vitamin from sun exposure,” Azzarro tells Verywell, adding that adequate vitamin D levels support a healthy and functioning immune system. 

Vitamin C

Along with vitamin D, Azzarro keeps additional vitamin C on hand during cold and flu season. “Although additional supplementation of this vitamin won’t help me prevent getting sick, it has been shown to help reduce the duration of a cold,” she explains. Once a cold sets in, she pops a vitamin C along with her daily supplementation plan.

Zinc Lozenges

Whenever she feels under the weather, Azzaro turns to zinc lozenges. “If taken within the first day of illness, this supplement may reduce the duration of illness in some people,” she says. However, she cautions against taking zinc supplements every day along with a multivitamin, as multivitamins often already provide adequate amounts of this mineral.  

Green Tea

While not technically a supplement, green tea is a staple in the home of Melissa Nieves, LND, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian and owner of FadFreeNutrition.com. 

“Green tea is a great source of antioxidants that help keep the immune system healthy and help ward off flu viruses,” Nieves tells Verywell. She says some of the ways tea catechins and polyphenols are thought to help impede influenza viral replication include:

  • Inhibiting the interaction of a virus with the cell membrane when it invades a cell 
  • Increasing natural killer (NK) cell activity
  • Suppressing viral genome replication and viral protein expression

Garlic

Scanniello says while she loves garlic as an immune-supporting food, eating it every day is not realistic. “Since a compound found in garlic has been shown to support the disease-fighting response of some white blood cells in the body when fighting a cold or the flu, I like to make sure that my body is fueled up when we enter cold and flu season,” she says. “An allicin-containing garlic supplement has its place in my regimen from October through April.” 

Elderberry

Another supplement found in Azzarro’s home during the colder months is elderberry. However, she only takes it once she feels the onset of illness. “Since the data suggests that taking elderberry can reduce flu symptoms, I am all about it,” Azzarro says. 

Probiotic

Probiotics, or live and active bacteria, are a wellness go-to for Whitney Gingerich, MA, RD, an Indiana-based registered dietitian. She takes probiotics consistently during cold and flu season. Certain strains of probiotics offer therapeutic potential for viral infection.

Medicinal Mushrooms

From coffee to candies, there is no shortage of medicinal mushroom products on the market. Scanniello incorporates these into her diet, especially during the winter season. 

“Medicinal mushrooms have been shown to impact our immune systems in a positive way,” Scanniello says. “They can help keep our immune system in balance—stimulating it when there is something to fight. I often aim for medicinal mushroom ‘blends’ as each mushroom has its own benefit and its own immunomodulating effects.” 

Scanniello adds a blend of Chaga, Turkey tail, reishi, maitake, lions mane, cordyceps, and shiitake via powder to her daily smoothie. “All of these have been shown to have immune-balancing effects and are full of antioxidants,” she says.

What This Means For You

Knowing what registered dietitians are taking to help keep themselves healthy may help guide you on your own supplement selection. Just make sure your doctor approves of any supplementation plan before you start. 

7 Foods To Support Your Immune System During Cold and Flu Season

7 Foods To Support Your Immune System During Cold and Flu Season

  • October 10, 2020

Key Takeaways

  • Including certain foods into your diet may help support your immune system during cold and flu system.
  • While no one food will guarantee that you will stay healthy and flu-free, focusing on certain nutrients like vitamin D and zinc may keep your body in fighting shape.

When October comes along and the weather begins to cool, many people think about pumpkin spice lattes and cozy sweater weather. But this month also means the start of cold and flu season—and a PSL’s nutrition profile won’t exactly help fend off infection.

Since many of us have been wearing masks, social distancing, working from home, and practicing other strategies to minimize the spread of COVID-19, we may see less transmission of other respiratory infectious diseases, like the flu, according to a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But these practices are not a magic bullet to perfect health. Frequently, poor nutrient status is associated with inflammation and oxidative stress, which in turn can negatively impact the immune system. 

Certain dietary choices may help support a healthy immune system to keep your body in fighting shape in case it does get infected by a common cold, the flu, or other illnesses. Along with proper hand washing, quality sleep, and other positive lifestyle choices, including these foods in your diet may help support your immune system during cold and flu season.

Legumes

Legumes include chickpeas, dried peas, and lentils. Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, registered dietitian and of Owner Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati, Ohio, advises adding legumes or lentils to a diet for an immune system boost. She explains that these foods contain prebiotic fibers that help support live probiotics, specifically lactobacillus, to prevent infection and reduce inflammation.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods contain live probiotics, and include kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir. Probiotics are live bacteria that offer a health benefit to the host – and in this case, the host is you!

Lindsey Pine, MS, RDN, a California-based registered dietitian and founder of Tasty Balance Nutrition recommends consuming fermented foods “because approximately 70% of our immune system resides in the gut. By keeping the gut healthy and including probiotic-containing foods, you’re helping to protect the immune system.”

Turmeric


“Turmeric contains curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and protects your body from harmful compounds,”
Alena Kharlamenko, MS,RS, a New York City-based registered dietitian, tells Verywell. 

If you’re using turmeric, make sure to eat it with black pepper—it helps your body absorb it better. 

Oysters 


Kharlamenko also recommends that people who want to support a healthy immune system add oysters into their diet. “Oysters and other shellfish like shrimp and lobster can also do wonders for your immune health,” she says. “They are packed with zinc, which helps protect your body from viruses and bacteria.”

Salmon


Salmon provides your body with important immune-supporting nutrients like vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, along with a health boost of protein, which is crucial for optimal antibody production. Specifically, choosing Chilean-farmed salmon gives you more omega-3s compared to other types of fish, with no mercury or antibiotics. 

100% Orange Juice With Added Vitamin D


Orange juice is chock-full of immune-supporting nutrients, including vitamin C. Choosing orange juice fortified with vitamin D gives some extra immune support, as adequate intake of this nutrient has been linked to reduced risk of respiratory tract infections, including the flu.

Garlic


Adding crushed garlic to pasta sauces or including chopped garlic to salad dressings may help ward off illness during cold and flu season in a natural way. When garlic is crushed or chopped, a compound called allicin is produced. This compound has been shown to
reduce inflammation and offer immune health benefits. A single trial suggested that garlic may prevent occurrences of the common cold, but more studies are needed to validate this finding.

What This Means For You

Including any of these foods in your diet during cold and flu season may help support a healthy immune system in a natural way.

A New Formula to Help Boost Your Immune System this Flu Season

A New Formula to Help Boost Your Immune System this Flu Season

  • October 9, 2020

As we enter flu and cold season many of us are looking for some help with supporting our immune systems. GSH+ is a brand new optimal immune therapy formula that can do just that. It’s an essential component to the body’s natural defense system, and acts as an antioxidant. The formula contains a powerful new ingredient called NACET which increases the production of the Master Antioxidant Glutathione.

This breakthrough ingredient increases the absorption of vital nutrients to combat harmful free radicals to optimize your immune system. GSH+ may help, support, boost, or promote the following: Respiratory function, promotes intracellular immune function, supports cognitive function, helps boost the immune system to fight bacteria, viruses and pathogens, and an elevated sense of well being, We are joined by Darcy and Corinne Cavanaugh, Founders of Salvation Nutraceuticals, to learn more about this super immune system booster.

Visit salvationnutra.com to grab yours today!

Easy ways to boost your immunity as flu season strikes

Easy ways to boost your immunity as flu season strikes

  • October 9, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – As we roll into cold and flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to do everything we can to cultivate a healthy and strong immune system. Recently the Institute for Functional Medicine published an article with some helpful tips to protect yourself this season.

It all starts with the basic hygiene behaviors that should be common place by now: wash your hands and wear your mask. But there are other lifestyle factors that support your immune system.

For example, we need to get 7-8 hours a night of quality sleep. This is restorative time for your body, allowing your immune system to do its heavy lifting when the body isn’t busy doing other things.

It’s also important to exercise regularly, which can support a healthy immune system. Also, manage your stress level to decrease the damage the stress response has on your immune system.

We can also support our immune system with nutrition. I like a food-first approach. That means eating a lot of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. They provide vitamins and antioxidants that naturally build up your immune system.

Since our diets are never perfect, supplementation can be key. Vitamin C is an easy and safe option to add to your daily routine for immune system health. Adequate vitamin D is a vital component of a heathy immune system too. Since you can overdo it, I do recommend having an easy test done to check your Vitamin D levels. Gut health is critical to immune health so you may want to consider adding a probiotic as well.

Finally, EGCG is a catechin that helps regulate immune function. You can take EGCG in a pill form but Pamela recommends getting it in a more delicious way – through green tea! Enjoy four cups of green tea brewed from loose leaf tea or one tsp of matcha powder to support a healthy immune system.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

Could The Live Flu Vaccine Help You Fight Off COVID-19?

Could The Live Flu Vaccine Help You Fight Off COVID-19?

  • October 8, 2020

In case you were still procrastinating getting a flu shot this year, here’s another reason to make it a priority.

There’s a chance the vaccine could offer some protection against COVID-19 itself, says virologist Robert Gallo, who directs the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is chairman of the Global Virus Network.

The key is getting the right flu vaccine, says Gallo, who was one of the main scientists credited with discovering HIV. “The vaccine has to have a live virus in it. The virus is attenuated so it doesn’t cause disease, but otherwise the virus is alive.”

A live virus may sound a bit terrifying, but it’s a standard way to make safe and effective vaccines. In fact, you’ve probably already had a few “live, attenuated” vaccines in your lifetime, such as the measles vaccine or oral polio vaccine.

Now scientists are just beginning to learn that these vaccines may offer some unexpected advantages to the immune system.

When developing a vaccine, scientists have a few strategies to try. They can take a piece or component of the bacteria and use that to trigger an immune response in a person. They can kill the pathogen and use its corpse as the vaccine. Or they can take a live pathogen and weaken it in the lab.

The latter are called “live, attenuated vaccines,” and over the past century, scientists have noticed something peculiar about these vaccines: They seem to offer some protection, not just from the targeted disease, but also against many different diseases, including respiratory infections.

“There’s plenty of evidence for it,” Gallo says.”The weakness is we don’t really know the longevity [of the protection]. It will probably work only for months, but we can’t say for sure.”

Take for instance, the vaccine for tuberculosis. It’s called bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG, and it contains a live, but weakened, strain of TB from cows.

When doctors in Sweden first started using BCG back in the 1920s, they noticed the vaccine not only reduced a child’s risk from dying of TB, but that children who got it had a mortality rate from all causes that was almost three times lower than unvaccinated children. Since the 1970s, scientists in West Africa have documented a similar pattern with both the BCG vaccine but also the live measles vaccine. In other words, they were doing something to boost the immune system’s response to many kinds of pathogens.

Recently, doctors in the Netherlands directly tested the BCG vaccine against a placebo, to see if it could help volunteers fight off a weakened form of yellow fever. The conclusion? People who received the BCG vaccine mounted a stronger immune response against the virus and cleared out the virus more effectively than those who received the placebo, the study reported.

It’s not just BCG that seems to have this effect. There’s growing evidence that any live vaccines can offer some broad, nonspecific protection, including the oral polio vaccine, measles and the live flu vaccine.

Scientists have had a hard time believing the evidence because the idea goes against the way they thought vaccines work, says immunologist Zhou Xing at McMasters University in Ontario: “It’s a new concept that has emerged in the field of immunology over the past five to 10 years or so.”

In general, vaccines work by tricking the body to produce antibodies. These molecules are very specific. They typically target and neutralize only one type of infection.

Live vaccines also work through antibodies, but they likely do something else, as well. They supercharge our body’s frontline defenders — the cells that first recognize an invader and try to clear it out before the infection gets out of control, Zhou says. Specifically, scientists think live vaccines epigenetically reprogram immune cells in the bone marrow, called myeloid cells.

Unlike antibodies, myeloid cells are nonspecific — they work on many types of invaders. And they work quickly, when the virus first enters a person’s body.

Now the big question is: Will live vaccines help a person clear out the coronavirus from their body before they get sick or before the infection becomes severe?

To figure that out, scientists around the world are currently running more than a dozen clinical trials with both BCG and the live polio vaccine to see if they offer some protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.

No one believes the protection will be as strong — or as long-lived — as that provided by a specific COVID-19 vaccine, says Dr. Moshe Arditi, who leads one of the trials at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles.

But he says, the BCG vaccine has several advantages to a specific vaccine. It’s cheap. A dose only costs a few dollars. And we already know it’s safe. “More than 130 million kids every year — every year — receive the BCG vaccine so the safety profile has been very strong,” Arditi says.

So the BCG vaccine could be approved — and available — by early next year, he says. “It could be a bridge until we have a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine.”

In the meantime, virologist Robert Gallo says, why not go get the live flu vaccine, if you can?

This year, the flu vaccine comes in two major forms: a shot or a nasal spray. The shot, which is approved for people all above age six months (who don’t have contraindications), contains an inactivated virus or components of the virus. The nasal spray (FluMist), which is approved for people ages 2 to 49, contains live, attenuated flu viruses.

“You watch,” Gallo says. “People who get the live flu vaccine will also be protected against the COVID-19. That’s the hypothesis.”

And, no matter what, even if you get a vaccine, you should still exercise all the same cautious you would otherwise: Wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands and avoid large, indoor gatherings.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
You may be more prepared than you think for flu season

You may be more prepared than you think for flu season

  • October 7, 2020

As the fall influenza season begins, even as novel coronavirus continues to spread, you may be wondering if you and your family are prepared for the risk of contracting two contagious respiratory illnesses.

During the 2018-2019 flu season, an estimated 35.5 million Americans got sick with influenza and 34,200 died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Adrian Cotton, MD, chief of medical operations at Loma Linda University Health, says individuals who take safety precautions related to COVID-19 will decrease their exposure to influenza — potentially lowering the odds of a public health emergency this fall and winter.

He answers five commonly asked questions about the upcoming flu season amidst the pandemic.

What are flu season projections in the United States?

Cotton says although it is hard to predict how severe the flu season will be in the United States, taking a glance at flu activity in other parts of the world may be insightful.

He notes other countries in the Southern Hemisphere: Australia, Chile and South Africa, where winter is now ending, have reported their flu cases as 99 percent below normal. Experts from the CDC surmise community COVID-19 mitigation measures — like mask-wearing and social distancing impaired flu spread.

“This data may create a false sense of security among Americans,” Cotton says. “It is crucial to continue with practices to reduce the risk of catching or spreading the flu and COVID-19.”

What are the most powerful tools for flu preparedness?

According to Cotton, these tools are key in protecting you and your loved ones from the flu:

  1. Get your flu shot. Although there is a chance you can get the flu even after you’re vaccinated, Cotton says the number of flu hospitalizations and deaths go down with flu vaccinations. “The more community members vaccinated in a population, the better it works,” he says.
    • Even if you’re a young adult and healthy – As a healthy young adult, you may not get sick, but those around you still can. You can transmit both the flu and COVID-19 to others even if you are asymptomatic.
    • Even healthy children – The risk of complications among healthy children is higher for the flu than COVID-19. Like adults, infants and children who have pre-existing medical conditions are more vulnerable to complications.
    • Especially if you’re in a high-risk group – Older adults, pregnant women and those with underlying medical conditions are among those at higher risk for serious complications from the flu or COVID-19, according to the CDC.
  2. Continue hygiene practices. “The steps you take to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 are the same for reducing the flu,” Cotton says. “Continue healthy hygiene habits, and if you are wearing a reusable mask, make sure to wash it.
  3. Strengthen your immune system. “Exercising, getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet and getting a bit of sunshine will boost your immunity to disease,” Cotton says. “Ensuring mental well-being is just as important because emotional distress also affects the immune system.”
  4. Stay at home when you’re sick. The best way to stop the spread of a contagious disease is to limit exposure. Avoid contact with others, even those in your household, which will prevent the spread of both viruses.

How do I know if it’s COVID-19 or the flu?

Cotton says flu and COVID-19 symptoms look similar, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Both can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, stuffy nose, body aches, sore throat, and exhaustion or fatigue. But Cotton says there are a few key differentiators:

  • “anosmia,” a sudden change or loss of smell and taste — to even strong odors like onions, garlic or coffee 
  •  “COVID toes,” redness or blisters on fingers or toes

Can you get flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

“The unfortunate answer is yes,” Cotton says. “The resulting impact of having both will be more severe than having either infection alone.”

When should you seek medical attention or testing?

Cotton recommends calling your primary care physician at the onset of flu or COVID-19 symptoms in order to determine the best treatment plan or if further testing may be required.

If you are experiencing any of these dangerous symptoms, call 911 or get to an emergency department and seek medical help immediately:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath 
  • lips or face turning blue
  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness

To learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and your family during the flu season, visit our flu page at lluh.org/flu. Loma Linda University Health Primary Care and Urgent Care locations are available for in-person or virtual visits. Appointments can be made quickly and easily online at MyChart or by calling 877-558-6248.

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