As we head into the fall, many public health experts and frontline physicians are concerned about how they’re going to deal with this year’s annual influenza pandemic on top of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Some have started using the term “twindemic” to describe the impending situation.
Thankfully, Dr. Lewis Kaplan, a critical care specialist at the University of Pennsylvania (my alma mater) who has seen many patients with coronavirus over the past seven months, will be employing a sensible plan…
He said doctors should simply rely on what he calls, “medical storytelling.” Basically, it means doctors should actually listen carefully to each individual patient.
And while this isn’t exactly revolutionary, he’s absolutely correct.
Indeed, carefully listening to patients may be the only way for doctors to effectively sort through the multitude of different symptoms that may stem from the coronavirus or the flu in different people. (Remember, there are two common cold and flu symptoms which, if a patient has them, are typically pretty good indicators that they DON’T have the much-feared coronavirus.)
Doctors should also play close attention to patients with co-morbidities—such as heart disease or Type II diabetes. These patients run a much higher risk of developing a serious reaction to the coronavirus. Not to mention, some of the symptoms of chronic disease can even mimic coronavirus, and the other way around.
Thus, even in this era of high-tech medicine, Dr. Kaplan says physicians must rely more on listening—the most ancient of all medical techniques—to successfully treat their patients. And it’s something Hippocrates, who’s regarded as “the father of medicine,” talked about 2,500 years ago.
Of course, this time-honored approach also underscores the stark differences between how public health experts and clinical doctors view the pandemic…
Public health experts don’t think about you as an individual
Doctors are trained to understand and monitor each person as a unique individual. Because, as we learned in our decade-long training, every individual reacts differently to viruses, illnesses, medications, treatments, and other interventions.
Whereas public health experts are trained to do just the opposite. They look at people as statistics. And play with impersonal probabilities—which is just one reason why their recommendations can seem so “off-base.”
For example, the annual flu vaccine is typically ineffective for about 75 percent of the population, including older adults. Plus, it can cause many short- and long-term side effects.
Indeed, we now know that getting the flu vaccine year after year incurs alarming, cumulative harm on the immune system. And—people who do get the flu vaccine and then go on to develop the flu anyway (an all-too-common occurrence, since it does not work in most people who get it) have six times more “aerosol shedding” of infectious microbes compared to those who didn’t get the vaccine. Which, in simpler terms, means that getting vaccinated turns these folks into “super spreaders.”
Yet, somehow, public health experts seem willing to overlook all these problems. They argue that the vaccine works because it supposedly reduces the “case load” in the overall population, although chances are it won’t help you as an individual.
A silver lining to this whole mess
Remember, the coronavirus and flu spread in the same way—through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
So, all the hand-washing, social distancing, and other sensible personal hygiene measures that you’ve already been practicing these past seven months (and that I’ve been recommending anyway for years) will reduce your risk of developing both the coronavirus and the flu!
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these measures are already working to keep the annual flu levels at “historic lows” here in the U.S., as I predicted back in March that they would.
And new studies are reporting a reduction in influenza cases during coronavirus outbreaks. (Not that we’d hear about it on the mainstream nightly news here in the U.S.!)
We should also expect, as we get deeper into fall and winter, that different strains of the coronavirus will emerge, as happens with the influenza virus. In fact, Dr. Kaplan thinks the coronavirus strain now in circulation in the U.S. may now be less dangerous than the earlier strain that hit from China last winter. The increase in positive cases (due to increases in testing, as expected), but decreases in deaths certainly seems to support this view.
In the end, I still think when (and if) all the facts come in, the coronavirus will turn out to be more like a serious influenza pandemic (like the ones they ignored in past years) than the plague that the lamestream media and certain politicians like to depict it. So, it’s up to you sensibly to protect yourself…
Seek personalized answers
Over the next few months, public health officials will continue to pester you to go out and get your annual flu shot amid dire, unfounded predictions about the looming “twindemic.”
But I still don’t trust getting it…or a coronavirus vaccine, when it becomes available.
Instead, continue to do all the things you’ve always done to protect your health during the fall and winter months—including supplementing daily with 10,000 IU of vitamin D, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands and face regularly. Studies long show that D protects against microbes. And a new study shows a link between vitamin D deficiency and the likelihood of being infected with coronavirus—even the famed Dr. Fauci has started recommending it (about 6 months too late).
In addition, don’t hesitate to seek out medical care if you suffer from a chronic disease, such as Type II diabetes or heart disease. And don’t put off needed cancer screenings—like the lung cancer screening I spoke about last week. Just make sure to find a doctor who treats you like an individual patient (as Dr. Kaplan cautions) and not as a number.
Lastly, you can learn more about my top immune health recommendations in my Pandemic Protection Playbook: How to become “immune ready” in every season. To gain access this essential guide, click here now!
“When Viruses Collide: Flu Season During Pandemic.” Medscape, 8/27/20. (medscape.com/viewarticle/936406)
“Decreased Influenza Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, Australia, Chile, and South Africa, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control, Weekly, 9/18/20; 69(37):1305–1309