11/7/2009 — Many people use Echinacea and Astragalus products as “immune enhancers” during acute infections.  This may not be a good idea with the current Novel H1N1 influenza (also known as “swine flu”)

These products exert their action by increasing the immune response of the organism.  But, especially in younger adults and children who naturally may already have a strong immune response, this may be harmful if the response becomes too strong.  One theory of why young people may have more serious illness and death from influenza is that they produce a lot of “cytokines” (natural promoters of the immune response) and if excessive, a condition known as “cytokine storm” can ensue, with a very rapid progression of the inflammation, very high fever and severe respiratory manifestations of the disease.

The main cause of death in the current epidemic is from “acute respiratory distress syndrome” which can be rapidly fatal and in its more severe forms requires a very specialized set of treatments which can only be administered in a hospital setting.  This may include mechanical ventilation and/or “extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.”

If anyone has a flu-like illness (fever, aching in the body, sore throat, nausea or diarrhea, sore throat) during this time of widespread H1N1 influenza, and feels that they are getting any kind of respiratory distress, they should go immediately to the hospital.