LOOMING ON THE HORIZON
Pandemic influenza looms on the horizon, and society finds itself poorly equipped to deal with the horrific threats this poses.
Influenza viruses are ubiquitous, they have been around for hundreds of years and are likely to remain with us for a long time.
They produce significant annual morbidity and mortality throughout the world, and the occasional pandemic with potentially devastating consequences for human and animal and the global economy.
The highest burden of disease affecting the very young, the very old, and the people with coexisting medical conditions.
The classic symptoms of human influenza include cough, malaise and fever, often accompanied by sore throat, nasal obstruction, and sputum production, which resolve spontaneously in most healthy individuals, although immune compromised and elderly individuals tend to be more vulnerable.
Complications may include bronchitis and pneumonia, and exacerbation of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Influenza A virus poses a continuing threat to the health of humans and farmed animals, and predictions of impending pandemics are commonplace.
We are stockpiling vaccines and antiviral drugs for the anticipated crisis but there is real concern that they will be in short supply and ineffective in a pandemic.
Currently, life support in the form of respirators and intravenous fluids remains the primary treatment for patients with avian influenza. However, there may be an insufficient number of respirators available and we lack the facilities, drugs, and personnel to care for a sharp upsurge in patients needing intensive treatment. For most individuals, little to no conventional treatment will be available in a fast-moving epidemic.
Thus, there is a great need for alternative ways to cope with severe influenza.
Patients suffering from influenza were treated successfully with herbs in earlier pandemics.
These physicians’ herbal treatments reportedly alleviated the painful symptoms of the 1918 influenza and prevented pulmonary complications and death in many of the patients.
Certain herbal extracts in combination, rich in polyphenols could play an important role in controlling influenza virus outbreaks and alleviating symptoms of the disease.
One of the attractions of herbal treatment is the broad spectrum of potential viral targets, since components of these herbs can interact with different viral proteins and are not constrained by viral strain differences, and drug-resistant mutations; consequently, any influenza virus is susceptible.
In addition, these extracts in combination have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties, all of which would be beneficial during influenza infection.
Herbs have long been used to treat influenza, a disease that has afflicted humans for millennia. They are highly useful in seasonal influenza, appear to have been very successful in past pandemics, and are likely to prove critical for treating patients who develop influenza when the next pandemic arrives.
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