My husband has a sinus infection, complicated by seasonal allergy. But when he said he wasn’t feeling well and looked like he had a fever, we all panicked and asked, “Do you have the Swine Flu?” We’ve been inundated by the news about Swine Flu and of course, that was the first thing that came to our minds. And the word “Pandemic” doesn’t help our nerves either.
Just this morning, the news broke about Swine Flu being linked to one death in the U.S. But it turns out Swine Flu is not a new disease. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths occurring. In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died 8 days later. A swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey occurred in 1976 that caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death. Swine Influenza, like other seasonal influenza, varies in severity, and affects those who are immunocompromised, like the young and old.
But because of the alarming rate this flu has been infecting people, we are on “Def Con Level 4” as per CDC and rightfully so. I’ve gotten e-mail alerts from school principals about the cautionary measures we should take, including keeping sick children at home.
So what does that mean? Does that mean don’t go out and keep away from people? (no, it means, be smart about being close to ‘sick’ people) Does that mean lather up on Purell? (no, read more about this below) Does that mean throw out pork related foods from the fridge? (no, you can’t get Swine Flu from pork – only from other infected people.) There’s so much confusion out there. But rest be assured, you don’t have to do anything drastic from what you have been doing. If you are of sound mind, I’m sure you’ve been doing the right thing all along to keep healthy.
But one thing to keep in mind before you go out and hoard cases of Purell or any other alcohol containing hand sanitizers, read this.
The use of triclosan is associated with these adverse effects:
• Contact dermatitis, or skin irritation
• Photoallergic contact dermatitis (PACD)
• Immunotoxic and neurotoxic reactions
• Carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic effects
• Triclosan converts to dioxin in river water when exposed to sunlight
• Three out of five human milk samples contained triclosan, which means lipophilic triclosan
(likes fat cells so it accumulates in our fatty tissues) get absorbed into body.
• Triclosan has been linked to or contributed to allergies and Asthma.
But the biggest concern is creating antibiotic resistant bacteria – super bug – with overuse. Triclosan kills bacteria similarly to the way antibiotics kills bacteria and with overuse, bacteria that become resistant to triclosan will become resistant to antibiotics. Furthermore, triclosan may also kill normal “good” bacteria and make room for the mutated bacteria to survive and reproduce, making an environment for the antibiotic resistant bacteria, like Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), to flourish.
According to Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “The nonmedical uses of triclosan are frivolous and dangerous, creating serious direct health and environmental hazards and long-term health problems associated with the creation of resistant strains of bacteria.” Also, The American Medical Association (AMA) is on record questioning the efficacy of triclosan in consumer products, raising the questions of whether the consumer uses are necessary and if they are doing more harm than good.
Environmental effect of triclosan is harmful too. Water utilities commented that triclosan and its degradation products are not removed during the water treatment process and end up in sewage sludge, often referred to as biosolids. Research shows that earthworms take in triclosan residues, as do fish and other aquatic organisms. Concerns have also been raised about residues in drinking water. (Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2008)
But wait, you say you use alcohol hand sanitizers because you don’t want to use triclosan? They are not that safe either. A little 2 oz bottle of Purell contains 62% ethy alcohol, which translate to as much as 4 shots of vodka. So if you are using these to wipe hands of little tikes all day long, you can actually cause more harm than good. There have been reported cases of children with alcohol poisoning from overuse of alcohol containing hand sanitizers.
According to CDC, however, there are non-toxic ways to keep healthy.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 to 20 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. Avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
What’s an alternative to products that contains triclosan or alcohol? Cleanwell. It’s a great alternative hand sanitizer made with Ingenium. Ingenium is a patented mix of plant essential oils, including the active ingredient, thyme oil. It is 100% biodegradable and kills 99.99% of germs including MSRA, Salmonella and Staph. It’s totally safe for kids with no risk of harm from ingestion. There are different size pump spritzers, sanitizer wipes and hand soap. They are sold in Whole Foods, Target, and Bath and Body Works.