- While influenza can indeed be deadly in rare cases, these deaths are typically the result of secondary infections, not the flu virus itself
- Research has highlighted the link between influenza and severe sepsis (blood poisoning). Symptoms of sepsis can mimic the flu, and are often overlooked. Without prompt treatment, the condition can be deadly
- Use of intravenous vitamin C, hydrocortisone and thiamine has been shown to reduce sepsis mortality nearly fivefold, from 40 to 8.5 percent
- Optimizing your vitamin D level is far more potent a preventive strategy than getting a seasonal flu vaccine. People with significant vitamin D deficiency may reduce their risk of respiratory infections such as influenza by 50 percent
- People with higher vitamin D levels may also benefit from additional vitamin D, reducing their risk of flu by 10 percent, which equals the effectiveness of the seasonal flu vaccine, including this year’s vaccine
By Dr. Mercola
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2017-2018 flu season appears particularly virulent. Influenza activity increased significantly in December, with influenza A(H3N2) viruses predominating, and in a December 27 notice, the agency noted that “In the past, A(H3N2) virus-predominant influenza seasons have been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in persons aged 65 years and older and young children …”1
While influenza can indeed be deadly in rare cases, what most health experts fail to tell you is that these deaths are typically the result of secondary infections, not the flu virus itself. Importantly, research has highlighted the link between influenza and severe sepsis — a progressive disease process initiated by an aggressive, dysfunctional immune response to an infection in the bloodstream (which is why it’s sometimes referred to as blood poisoning).
Symptoms of sepsis are often overlooked, even by health professionals, and without prompt treatment, the condition can be deadly. Unfortunately, conventional treatments often fail, and most hospitals have yet to embrace the use of intravenous (IV) vitamin C, hydrocortisone and thiamine,2 which has been shown to reduce sepsis mortality from 40 to a mere 8.5 percent.3,4
How Influenza May Cause Lethal Sepsis
According to researchers, “Severe sepsis is traditionally associated with bacterial diseases … However, viruses are becoming a growing cause of severe sepsis worldwide.” As noted in the video above, some sepsis symptoms also resemble influenza, which can lead to tragedy. The video offers guidelines on how to tell the difference between the two.
Sepsis, without doubt, requires immediate medical attention, whereas most people will successfully recover from the flu with a few days to a week of bedrest and fluids. Just how influenza can lead to sepsis is a somewhat complex affair, described as follows:5
“Regardless of the etiologic agent, the inflammatory response is highly interconnected with infection. In the initial response to an infection, severe sepsis is characterized by a pro-inflammatory state, while a progression to an anti-inflammatory state develops and favors secondary infections …
In the predominant pro-inflammatory state, Th1 cells activated by microorganisms increase transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α), interferon-γ (INF-γ), and interleukin-2 (IL-2).
[C]ytokines … released from endothelial cells and subsequently from macrophages can induce lymphocyte activation and infiltration at the sites of infection and will exert direct antiviral effects. Subsequently, with the shift toward an anti-inflammatory state, activated Th2 cells secrete interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-10 (IL-10).
In certain situations, T cells can become anergic, failing to proliferate and produce cytokines. Type I IFN has a potent anti-influenza virus activity; it induces transcription of several interferon stimulated genes, which in turn restrict viral replication. However, influenza virus developed several mechanisms to evade IFN response …
Viral infections such as the influenza virus can also trigger deregulation of the innate immune system with excessive cytokines release and potential harmful consequences. An abnormal immune response to influenza can lead to endothelial damage … deregulation of coagulation, and the consequent alteration of microvascular permeability, tissue edema, and shock.”
Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis
Common signs and symptoms of sepsis to watch out for include:6
- A high fever
- Inability to keep fluids down
- Rapid heartbeat; rapid, shallow breathing and/or shortness of breath
- Lethargy and/or confusion
- Slurred speech, often resembling intoxication
Should a few or all of these be present, seek immediate medical attention to rule out sepsis. Also inform the medical staff that you suspect sepsis, as time is of the essence when it comes to treatment. As noted in the featured video, hydration is of utmost importance, as much of the damage caused by sepsis begins with fluid loss.
Preventive Strategies That Can Reduce Your Chances of Influenza, Sepsis and Other Secondary Infections
Your immune system is your first-line defense against all types of infections, be they bacterial or viral, so the most effective way to avoid coming down with the flu is to bolster your immune function. While conventional health authorities claim getting an annual flu shot is the best way to ward off influenza, the medical literature actually suggests vitamin D optimization may be a far more effective strategy, and the evidence for this goes back at least a decade.
Dr. John Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council, was one of the first to introduce the idea that vitamin D deficiency may actually be a causative factor in influenza. His hypothesis7 was initially published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection in 2006.8 It was subsequently followed up with another study published in the Virology Journal in 2008.9
The following year, a large, nationally representative study10 confirmed that people with the lowest vitamin D levels indeed reported having significantly more colds or cases of the flu.
Since then, a number of studies have come to similar conclusions. Most recently, a scientific review11,12 published last year concluded that vitamin D supplementation boosts immunity and cuts rates of cold and flu. In all, 25 randomized controlled trials were included in the review, involving nearly 11,000 individuals from more than a dozen countries. People with significant vitamin D deficiency (blood levels below 10 ng/mL), taking a vitamin D supplement reduced their risk of respiratory infections such as influenza by 50 percent.
People with higher vitamin D levels also benefited, although not as greatly. Overall, they reduced their risk by about 10 percent, which the researchers stated was about equal to the effect of flu vaccines. Coincidentally, 10 percent is the effectiveness rate of this year’s flu vaccine.13 The take-home message here is that vitamin D supplementation far exceeds the flu vaccine in terms of effectiveness, and the more deficient you are, the greater its protective effects.
Aside from vitamin D, loading up on vitamins B1 and C may go a long way toward keeping you healthy through the flu season and beyond. Influenza has also been successfully treated with high-dose vitamin C.14 Taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of a cold or flu can also be helpful.
Zinc boosts immune function and plays a vital role in activating your body’s T cells (white blood cells tasked with destroying infected cells). If you fall victim to frequent bacterial infections or colds, your body might be trying to tell you it needs more zinc.