by Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom(NA), OIM

The most devastating influenza epidemic ever to befall mankind began in the fall of 1918.

Sandra J. Perko, Ph.D., C.C.N. recounts the remarkable history of influenza epidemics and pandemics in her book, The Homeopathic Treatment of Influenza: Surviving Influenza Epidemics and Pandemics Past, Present and Future With Homeopathy.

The infection swept the globe so quickly that it was called the “disease of the wind”. People were so fearful of the “flying bug” that they barricaded doors and blocked any crevice where air could come in. At the time, some doctors warned that open windows would hasten death.

Today, we are warned by public health officials that this current influenza epidemic is spread by breath. Indeed, breathing and the droplets from coughing or sneezing do carry the virus “on the wind”. Breathing is endemic to life lived in the subway cars, on buses, in work spaces, in classrooms, on airplanes—in any area where two or more are gathered in close proximity.

One of the three most destructive outbreaks of disease the human race has ever known, The Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, rivaled the Plague of Justinian of 542 A.D., and the Bubonic Plague of 1347-1350.

The fourteenth century Bubonic Plague took four years to spread across Europe and Asia. The Spanish Flu circled the globe in little more than four months. It took the lives of 20-50 million people worldwide and 50 times that number fell sick.

According to Dr. Perko, public health officials have been quietly preparing for the return of a global influenza super virus, which, due to the fact that medicine has squandered its antibiotic arsenal, threatens to eclipse the greatest influenza epidemic of all time. “In the words of concerned scientists, ‘Sooner or later, severe pandemic influenza will once again ravage the world,'” she says. “Can such an epidemic or pandemic happen again? The consensus is ‘almost certainly yes.’”

Fast forward 100 years and The Business Insider headlines read, “The flu epidemic has hit a milestone that hasn’t happened in over a decade.”

“This year’s influenza season is proving particularly difficult”, said CDC Deputy Director Anne Schuchat. Experts say that the most unusual thing about this year’s flu is that it is hitting almost everyone at the same time. The flu is widespread in 49 states right now and doctors at the CDC say they haven’t seen that kind of across-the-board flu circulation in the last 13 years of tracking the flu, possibly ever.

Foreshadowing from the 1918 pandemic, as doctors watched in vain the unfolding of a mutated virus unlike any other seen before, this poem appeared in the November 1918 issue of The IIlinois Health News:

If we but knew
The cause of flu
And whence it comes and what to do.
I think that you
And we folks ,too
Would hardly get in such a stew.
Do you?

According to the Business Insider report, the prevalence of the deadly strain of influenza ‘A’ , called H3N2, is the culprit. Eight of every 10 lab-confirmed tests of flu cases have been this aggressive strain. “H3N2 is not well-served by vaccines because it rapidly evolves and is difficult to grow successfully in eggs, which is how most flu shots are made,” reads the report. 

The height of  flu season tends to occur in mid-February and goes through March. With the quick and deadly spread affecting 49 states in the U.S. ( Hawaii has not seen an outbreak), a virus that moves quickly, changes rapidly, and mutates drastically, and an all but ineffective flu vaccine, the question becomes, what do we do now?

Let’s quantify what we do know. The CDC defines influenza-like illness as either a specific diagnosis of influenza or a fever co-presenting with a cough or sore throat. Onset of symptoms are generally sudden and acute. One may report feeling as though they are “coming down with something”, have a headache, a general feeling of malaise, weakness, chills, and maybe slight fever. Or, they can feel like they were “hit with a ton of bricks”. Symptoms often include a high fever, a short, dry cough, and aching muscles, joints, and extremities. Pain in the eyes, nasal congestion, and discharge, along with sore throat and laryngitis, may be present.

It must be noted that influenza is a respiratory disease. We have fallen into the habit of calling any manner of viral syndromes “the flu,” as in gastric disturbances that we call a “stomach flu”. Myxoviruses are the group of viruses that cause influenza. These also cause mumps and measles, which gives me considerable food for thought to ponder on mutations but I shall leave that subject for another fine day.

In the acute stage, that is three to five days, the fever may be present for the duration and variable. It can rise, reduce, and rebound. This often accounts for the fact that people feel if the fever is down that they are better and they return to work, or school, only to relapse, infect others and prolong their recovery. Staying the course, nourishing our bodies with rest, and appropriate interventions is the only way to ensure full recovery.

It does take a good seven to 10 days in most cases. In our hurried society, where people value productivity above all else, people don’t want to take that much time off from work or they simply cannot afford to, their boss won’t allow it, and a panoply of other reasons contribute to the cycle of infection. In my practice, I have found that those who do not stay home and allow the virus to run its course can experience a low level of symptoms for three to four weeks after the acute onset. I call this “never well since”. Listlessness, weakness, fatigue, depression, and irritability are signs of post-influenza syndrome.  

My top three go-to homeopathic remedies for this are:

  • Kali Phosphoricum: weakness after the flu with depressio
  • China: weakness after a flu with serious fluid loss either from sweating or vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Gelsemium: weakness after the flu with continued aching and a dullness, drooping eyelids.