Virus treatments quackery – what not to take for flu, colds, or COVID-19

cold comfort cover cute

It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by virus treatments for everything from the flu and colds to COVID-19. The quackery includes things like “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science.

This article will attempt to debunk the myths of virus treatments such as “boosting the immune system,” magical supplements, and other nonsense involved with the world of flu treatment pseudoscience.

Of course, the best way to prevent the flu or COVID-19 is to get the vaccines. And since these vaccines are free, it’s infinitely cheaper than fake, useless virus treatments.

Continue reading “Virus treatments quackery – what not to take for flu, colds, or COVID-19”

Thanks to COVID-19, we beat the flu for the first time in history

a sick man covering his mouth

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a horrible experience for the past two years, but it had one silver lining – beating the flu.

As I have written before, the annual rite of winter life, flu outbreaks, became almost nothing during the 2020-21 flu season. On average, the flu infects roughly 30 million Americans every year and kills over 30,000. Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that over 650,000 people die of respiratory illnesses related to the flu.

As with COVID-19, the elderly, the poor, and people of color are all overrepresented among the victims of the flu. Moreover, the annual economic cost of the flu in the USA averages nearly $90 billion.

Of course, things changed during the 2020-21 flu season. The US had only around 2,000 cases of the flu. No, that is not a typo, there were only 2,000 flu cases in the USA during the 2020-21 flu season. In other words, there were 17,000 times fewer flu cases than the 35 million cases during the 2019-2020 flu season.

During the 2019-20 flu season, 199 children died of the virus. In 2020-21, only one child died.

In fact, other respiratory viruses nearly disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic – respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza, rhinovirus, and adenovirus. I’ve been watching infectious diseases for decades, and this was truly amazing.

So how can we stop the flu once the COVID-19 pandemic is done? And that’s where it gets complicated.

Continue reading “Thanks to COVID-19, we beat the flu for the first time in history”

Flu and COVID “twindemic” – more reasons to get both vaccines

flu COVID-19 twindemic

Infectious disease and public health experts are beginning to worry about a twindemic of flu and COVID-19 as we enter the winter. The start of the 2021-22 flu season added to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may make this winter particularly dangerous.

As I discussed previously, much of the world had the fewest cases of influenza than any time in recent history. COVID-19 pandemic mitigation, such as face masks, social distancing, fewer people traveling, fewer kids in school, and more people working remotely left precious little opportunity for the influenza virus to spread like it does in “normal winters.”

With the good news comes some potentially bad news. This article will look into reasons why a flu and COVID-19 twindemic may be coming to many countries across the world, including the USA. I don’t want to be the harbinger of the apocalypse, but I just want to present more reasons for everyone to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccine to prevent this potential twindemic.

Continue reading “Flu and COVID “twindemic” – more reasons to get both vaccines”

Why do I still wear my lovely COVID face masks? Because of science.

man in white button up shirt and woman in green tank top

Let me get it right out there – I am wearing my attractive (not really) COVID-19 face masks even after being fully Moderna vaccinated. I wear them any time I’m at risk of being close to other human beings. And I intend to wear them until the day Dr. Anthony Fauci quits wearing his.

In the USA, wearing COVID face masks with or without vaccination was based on the honor system, and if there’s one defining characteristic of Americans who reject science, they aren’t honorable. So I don’t want to risk catching some new variant that arises in unvaccinated people who think it’s their right to breathe their contaminated breath on others.

I’m going to continue wearing my face mask for quite a long time, and here are my reasons.

Continue reading “Why do I still wear my lovely COVID face masks? Because of science.”

Vaccine adverse events are very rare – vast benefits outweigh risks

shoenfeld

Like all medical procedures, devices, and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect – there are rare vaccine adverse events. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices, or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Sometimes the ratio is small.

For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication. Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable.

But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that.

They check the packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may have been found to be dangerous (the best example is Vioxx).

But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living. 

Continue reading “Vaccine adverse events are very rare – vast benefits outweigh risks”

The list of healthcare worker flu vaccine excuses – none are valid

healthcare worker flu vaccine

We’re entering the 2021-2022 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time for the annual epic Mark Crislip rant about healthcare worker flu vaccine beliefs. For the past nine years at the start of the flu season, I reprint Dr. Mark Crislip‘s hysterical and outstanding rant about “slow-witted Equus africanus asinus” healthcare workers who invent flu vaccine fallacies, tropes, and myths in an effort to justify their belief that the flu vaccine is dangerous, useless, or whatever else that hits their brain.

Dr. Crislip’s humorous compilation of these flu vaccine myths, which were originally published in A Budget of Dumb Asses 2011, describes the different types of vaccine-refusing healthcare worker individuals. I resurrect this list every year at the beginning of the flu season not only for humor (because it is funny) but also to point the finger at flu vaccine deniers who also happen to be healthcare workers.

Any nurse, pharmacist, therapist, physician, or surgeon that refuses the flu vaccine by relying upon pseudoscientific nonsense about the vaccine rather than protecting their patients and themselves is appalling. I may be harsh, but maybe their employment ought to be terminated for their lack of concern about patients.

But the true adherents to the flu vaccine beliefs aren’t just healthcare workers. You know neighbors, friends, family, and even fellow vaccine supporters who refuse to get the flu vaccine. And they rely on the same ridiculous myths as healthcare workers.

These vaccine deniers believe that the flu vaccine is not necessary because the disease is not dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth.

flu vaccine fallacies

During the 2018-19 flu season (the 2019-20 and 2020-21 flu seasons were skewed by the COVID-19 pandemic), 129 American children died of the flu. But, there’s more:

  • 37.4 – 42.9 million Americans contracted the flu
  • 17.3 – 20.1 million of those had a medical visit because of the flu
  • 531-647 thousand of those had to be hospitalized as an inpatient
  • Finally, 36,400 – 61,200 died
  • Worldwide, it is estimated that there will be approximately 290-650 thousand deaths. 

The flu season is just starting, and it’s almost impossible to not find a place to get the vaccine. Your family doctor, clinics, pharmacies, and many other places currently have the flu vaccine. And I am not a hypocrite – I will have my flu vaccination next week. Of course, my healthcare insurance provides them out for free to all members.

And if you think you can prevent or cure the flu with vitamin C, echinacea, or bone broth (yes, it’s a thing), they don’t work. You are not going to be able to boost your immune system to destroy the flu virus unless you get vaccinated.

We’ve dispensed with many of the cherished flu vaccine beliefs of the anti-vaccine religion. Moreover, many studies have shown that getting the flu vaccine can improve health outcomes.

But too many people refuse this life-saving vaccine.

Continue reading “The list of healthcare worker flu vaccine excuses – none are valid”

Debunking flu vaccine myths – it’s that time again

flu vaccine myths

As we enter the 2021-2022 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, your best weapon to avoid the flu is to ignore the myths and get the seasonal flu vaccine. Despite the known overall safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine, the anti-vaccination cult is pushing their ignorant nonsense all over social media, especially Facebook.

Despite all the good reasons to get the vaccine, the CDC estimated that the flu vaccine uptake in the USA in 2020-21 was around 59.0%. This is well below the 80-90% uptake required for herd immunity against the flu.

There are some concerns that because all the measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, that caused the 2020-21 flu season to be almost non-existent, may make the population even more susceptible to the flu during the 2021-22 season.

Thus, it may be more important this year than many others to get the flu vaccine. And for me to debunk the noxious flu vaccine myths.

Continue reading “Debunking flu vaccine myths – it’s that time again”

Flu vaccine unrelated to miscarriages – getting the facts right

flu vaccine miscarriages

A while ago, the Washington Post dropped this provocative headline, “Researchers find a hint of a link between flu vaccine and miscarriages.” Add this to the long list of anti-vaccine tropes, which include the HPV and COVID-19 vaccines, that somehow, in some magical way, these vaccines cause something bad to fertility or pregnancy.

Of course, a more thorough review of the research shows that the flu vaccine does not miscarriages. A careful reading of the Washington Post article shows that it is filled with nuance and hedging because the underlying published article does not actually provide robust evidence that any flu vaccine increases the risk of miscarriages.

The Washington Post made several points that are important to consider, and we’ll examine the underlying research in more depth. But the most important point they made is that,

The findings suggest an association, not a causal link, and the research is too weak and preliminary, experts said, to change the advice, which is based on a multitude of previous studies, that pregnant women should get a flu vaccine to protect them from influenza, a deadly disease that may cause serious birth defects and miscarriage.

I wonder how many anti-vaccine radicals will fail to make that point, instead, screaming that “vaccines are dangerous and the worthless flu vaccine causes miscarriages.”

Well, of course. Del Bigtree isn’t known for his scientific knowledge.

Well, we don’t cherry-pick our evidence here, so we’re going to look at the broad body of evidence with respect to the flu, flu vaccines, and pregnancy. Because that’s how we roll here. And because we think pregnant women deserve the best information possible to protect themselves and their developing babies. Because that’s also how we roll here.

Continue reading “Flu vaccine unrelated to miscarriages – getting the facts right”

Vaccine safety – a huge systematic review says they don’t cause autism

vaccine safety

Not that most of us need to be convinced, but there’s another huge systematic review that examined vaccine safety. Unsurprisingly, it shows that there are no major safety signals post-vaccination, plus no vaccine is linked to autism.

It’s ironic that this study is a high-quality systematic review and meta-analysis, the top of the hierarchy of biomedical research, while anti-vaxxers rely upon retracted articles published in predatory journals.

So, I want to do a quick review of this new article so that we can continue to support the settled science of vaccine safety.

Continue reading “Vaccine safety – a huge systematic review says they don’t cause autism”

COVID vaccine updates – large clinical trials will be unnecessary

covid vaccine updates

The questions I keep getting are will we need COVID-19 vaccine updates and how fast could we get them. These are important questions going forward, especially since there are some dangerous variants that seem to be spreading widely.

I think we should look at the model for flu vaccines – each year the antigens are targeted by the vaccine are changed slightly to improve effectiveness. Admittedly, with the flu vaccine, it’s hard to do since the influenza virus can mutate rapidly.

However, regulatory agencies worldwide do not require massive clinical trials for the new formulations, as long as nothing else changes except for the antigens. That’s the model that we will probably require for future COVID-19 vaccine updates in the future.

Continue reading “COVID vaccine updates – large clinical trials will be unnecessary”