A Bad Flu Is Rising: Influenza Update Winter 2015

Friday Jan 16 | BY |
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Flu 2015

Last week, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC,
publicly announced that this season’s main flu strain—H3N2—is a bad one.

For the first time in my life I was considering going to the hospital.

I was in a remote area of Peru where there were no doctors, no medicine, and no clinics. I was melting with fever, extremely weak, aching all over, and couldn’t breathe. What was I to do?

Start with the basics. Focus. Pray. Stay hydrated. And hold on until I got back to a town.

It took a couple of days to get to Quillabamba, a small city where a few tourists go to the north of Machu Picchu over the Andean range. I took a room in a family run hostel. I fell on the bed with my clothes on, still dusty and worn, and hardly moved for a few days.

When the fever broke, I was still very weak and had difficulty breathing. I was so tired that I could barely walk a block on my own. Gradually, I got better.

When I was strong enough, I traveled back to Cusco, drank lots of herbal teas, and went after any lingering secondary infections with prescription medicine, something I rarely resort to taking. It still took several weeks to feel even halfway well.

I wanted to know what illness I contracted. It wasn’t a tropical fever like Dengue. This was something different. My symptoms were more like the flu, only far stronger. I checked the government health websites for Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

Sure enough, a severe form of influenza—H3N2 Variant Influenza A Virus—was making people very sick in South America. At the time, complications from this form of influenza were the number one cause of death in Peru. This was indeed a serious illness.

When I was sick, it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere and the height of the flu season. In six months, it would be winter in the Northern Hemisphere. That winter is here, now, in North America.

Last week, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, publicly announced that this season’s main flu strain—H3N2—is a bad one.

Flu and Cold Viruses Prefer Winter

Influenza A (H3N2) Virus is a type of swine flu that is a variant of the H1N1 2009 pandemic swine flu outbreak. First identified in pig farms in the U.S. in 2010, this virus mutated fast and jumped from pigs to people by July 2011. It’s been in circulation ever since, and has gotten stronger each year.

Cold viruses that infect the human nasal passages—called Rhinoviruses—like it cold.

Flu viruses also prefer the cooler temperatures of winter. Flu season peaks in the winter: in the Southern Hemisphere between June through August, and in the Northern Hemisphere between January and March.

One difference between illnesses caused by cold versus flu is that influenza viruses invade cells deep in the lungs. Rhinoviruses mainly like tissues in the nose, sinuses, and throat. That’s one of the reasons influenza, especially H3N2, can be so dangerous. Inflammation in the lungs, along with accumulation of fluid, makes it difficult to breathe.

Flu Vaccine Mismatch

This year’s vaccine doesn’t work well against H3N2. Despite the mismatch, the CDC is still recommending that everyone get the flu vaccine.


Because it has been found to provide some protection against variant viruses. “Though reduced, this cross-protection might reduce the likelihood of severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death,” the agency said in its announcement (emphasis mine).

In my professional opinion, that’s a weak argument.

An early tip off about the ineffectiveness of the current vaccine against H3N2 came when 25% of sailors on a U.S. Navy minesweeper developed influenza infection, even though 99% of them had been vaccinated.

U.S. military health policy is to vaccinate all personnel against seasonal influenza. This incident gave an early warning about the risk of an outbreak even among vaccinated, otherwise-healthy young people.

Why wasn’t the CDC listening better?

Dr. Amesh A. Adaljia wrote in Clinicians’ Biosecurity News that one factor that may play a major role in the severity of this season’s flu outbreak is the mismatch of the H3N2 component of the current quadrivalent vaccine. This season, the dominant H3N2 virus is a “drift” variant from the strain that’s in the vaccine. This is ominous, because H3N2 is the dominant strain so far this year.

If this year’s vaccine doesn’t work that well, what’s the backup? Despite minimal usefulness against H3N2, the CDC strongly recommends antiviral drugs as first line treatment. The only antiviral drugs we have against influenza are not that effective, though, and have to be taken at first signs of infection.

In light of the H3N2 virus drift, the CDC advisory suggests using neuraminidase inhibitor antiviral drugs as an adjunct to vaccination. The two prescription antiviral medications recommended for flu treatment or prevention are oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).

The only other two we have don’t work at all because of high levels of resistance to adamantane antiviral medications (rimantadine [Flumadine] and amantadine [Symmetrel]). These two drugs are not recommended to treat or prevent H3N2 influenza.

What Can You Do To Beat H3N2?

Influenza outbreaks tend to cluster. Check the health department website for your state. If there’s heavy activity in your area, avoiding contact is the best prevention.

Tips to Avoid Infection

  • Wear a mask
  • Wear latex gloves
  • Wash your hands
  • Don’t linger around those infected
  • Stay hydrated

Herbal teas can be helpful. But, keep in mind that they don’t prevent infection, but may lessen the severity and shorten the time you’re sick. Take them at the first symptoms of the flu.

Herbal Teas that Help Fight the Flu

  • Ginger: Make a tea from 4-5 slices of fresh ginger per cup of hot water. Drink one cup three times daily.
  • Elderberry Flower: Steep 2-3 tablespoons of dried elderberry flowers in boiling water for ten minutes. Keep cover while steeping. Add honey and drink one cup three times daily.
  • Sage Tea: Brew 2-3 tablespoons of dried sage leaves per cup of hot water. Simmer on the stove for twenty minutes. Keep covered while simmering. Add honey and drink one cup three times daily.
  • Yarrow Flowers: Brew 2-3 tablespoons of dried yarrow flowers per cup of hot water. Simmer on the stove for twenty minutes. Keep covered while simmering. Add honey and drink one cup three times daily.
  • Boneset: Brew 2-3 tablespoons of dried boneset leaves and stems per cup of hot water. Simmer on the stove for twenty minutes. Keep covered while simmering. Add honey and drink one cup three times daily.

From Beating the Flu, J.E. Williams, OMD 2004

Don’t forget immune-boosting supplements. These natural products help prevent cold and flu, and may shorten the time you’re sick. From my clinical experience, zinc is the most important antiviral and immune supportive supplement. I’ve listed these for you in the order of importance, but you can also take all of them for added protection.


If you get sick with H3N2, stay home. This virus is very contagious. If you get very sick, call your doctor. Before you get sick, learn more about how to avoid, prevent, and effectively treat the flu with natural medicines.

Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

Visit Dr. Williams’ Website: https://drjewilliams.com/

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  1. June Hanson says:

    Was so moved with compassion, from your horrible experience with flu in Peru. Let us pray you will never go through that again. God was not through with you, knowing you had patients, who depended on you and those who will be needing your help.

    Just think, if you had not prepared your body with supplements, natural therapies, your immune system, would be so weak, you would not have survived. We would not have benefited from all your wisdom, writings that you so freely give to us.

    Thousands of your patients, like me, would not even be here. We have learned from you, how important it is to faithfully keep our immune systems strong. Following and working with you, as our Doctor. Not waiting until just before flu season.

    Very few Doctors have the knowledge, you have attained, by living your life, working with others throughout the world. We, are so grateful to you.

    So glad your taking time off from trips that endanger your life. You are too valuable to take those risks. Your patients need you, everyone would heartily agree with me. You have dedicated your life to helping others, less fortunate. Risked your life to bring natural healing to us.

    Now, we are asking you to preserve and take care of your life. Using your experienced wisdom of many years that only you, as a great Doctor, can provide. To countless thousands who need hope and be blessed by your healthy natural way of living.

    So, to beat the flu, those of us who are retired, should spend Christmas, winter in Southern hemisphere. Spring, Summer and Fall in Northern hemisphere. Oh, I, for sure, could handle that!!! What a great idea!!!!

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