The possibility of a global pandemic of swine influenza depends on the convergence of several interrelated factors:
1. the appearance of virulent strains capable of human-to-human transmission in Mexico or elsewhere, with rapid spread via travelers to many other countries throughout the world;
2. the proven ability of influenza viruses to produce mutant strains capable of rapid, large-scale human-to-human transmission, which has produced global epidemics in the past;
3. their short incubation period (2-3 days at most), which spreads them more rapidly than large-scale preventive measures can easily keep up with;
4. the limited effectiveness of standard anti-viral drugs against them;
5. the necessity of developing a new vaccine for each new outbreak, with enough specificity to be effective, of producing it in sufficient quantity to protect large populations, and of distributing it in time to do any good, coupled with the high probability of further mutations that could render the vaccine ineffective by the time it could be produced; and
6. the lack of adequate hospital beds, trained personnel, and outpatient facilities to administer prophylaxis and treat severe cases on a global scale.
In response to this important but still largely potential threat, I offer the following Advisory. It is in no sense a plea or recommendation to choose homeopathic treatment in lieu of standard public health measures or effective vaccines if and when they become available. It is intended solely to inform the public and the medical community about a simple method for the prevention and treatment of epidemic influenza that they may not be aware of, that is safe and inexpensive, and that has repeatedly proved its worth in the past. It calls for a modest three-tiered strategy that is well within the capability of any region or locality acting on its own, without any need for Federal assistance or the quota of unwanted surveillance and red tape that usually come with it. It is also directly applicable to threats of bioterrorism and other epidemic diseases as well.
Level 1. Prevention in Advance of the Outbreak.
The first level is prevention in advance of the outbreak, or in its earliest stages, when the first documented or reported cases appear in the vicinity. If the specific vaccine is not yet available in sufficient quantity, either of two homeopathic medicines may offer a good measure of protection for a period of weeks and months, and may be taken with perfect safety by anyone. The first is Influenzinum, the homeopathic “nosode” or medicine prepared from the virus itself, and may be taken in the 30C or 30th centesimal dilution, somewhat as follows: 3 doses within a 24-hour period (waking, bedtime, waking), repeated weekly until the outbreak passes. Although the mutability of the virus limits the effectiveness of specific vaccines prepared from any previous strain, this homeopathic nosode made from the deadly 1918 virus has had an excellent track record in the regular annual epidemics since then.
Another proven choice would be the homeopathic medicine prepared from duck heart and liver, because the remedy has less to do with the microbiology of the virus than the reaction of its animal host to it. It is available OTC from several different manufacturers, under a variety of trade names, such as Oscillococcinum (Boiron Labs), and may be taken in the 200C dilution, on roughly the same schedule as the nosode. It too has proven highly effective in preventing influenza if begun at or before the time of exposure, and also works quite well for incipient cases if given early enough.
Level 2. Preventive Treatment in the Early Stages of Illness.
Once the disease has broken out in the vicinity, homeopathic physicians are trained to examine each case individually, and to prescribe the one medicine that corresponds most closely to the unique symptom-picture of the patient as a whole. In an epidemic, where the illness tends to look quite similar in most people, after 15 or 20 cases are treated in this individualized manner, one medicine will emerge as having been extremely beneficial to about 75% of the cases, not only in alleviating the intensity of the symptoms, but also in speeding the recovery, and thus shortening the course of the disease. Three medicines that have been used successfully and repeatedly in this way for past outbreaks are Gelsemium sempervirens, yellow jasmine; Bryonia alba, white bryony; and Eupatorium perfoliatum, or boneset, although the list of possibilities is much longer. Known as the genus epidemicus, the one that proves most suitable becomes in effect the specific remedy for the outbreak as a whole, and may be given out prophylactically to everyone at the time of exposure, or even beforehand, when the disease is nearby. It will also do excellent service in treating early or incipient cases.
Level 3. Individualized Treatment of Advanced or Complicated Cases.
For the remaining 25% or so of the cases, who do not simply “receive” and copy the standard picture, and thus do not respond as well to the genus epidemicus, but go on to develop a more elaborate and sometimes more intense pattern of their own, other equally beneficial medicines will be identifiable by a trained homeopath, based on further individualization of the total symptom-picture, as above. Clinical experience has shown that about 15% of these cases correspond closely to a second remedy, which must also be determined uniquely for the outbreak, while the remaining 10% exhibit more idiosyncratic symptom response-patterns that call for a variety of other medicines. Some of the most severe or complicated cases may of course require hospitalization and conventional treatment as well.
Long experience with epidemics of smallpox, cholera, scarlet fever, typhus, and other such diseases at a time when vaccines and antibiotics were not yet available has shown this simple method to be highly effective in mitigating their severity and duration, both by treating the people who are already sick, and by preventing their spread to and lessening their impact on others in their path. It is inexpensive and totally safe, involving the use of simple home remedies that are available to anyone without a prescription, thus allowing the physician to focus on the more advanced and complicated cases. As part of the overall public health strategy, the homeopathic approach could be of great benefit, especially where and when conventional vaccines and medications are ineffective or unavailable.