November 2001 Newsletter
Dear Friends and Patients:
This is a special “early” issue of our newsletter that I wanted to make available given the events of September 11th and the bioterrorism with Anthrax that is continuing in the United States at the time we went to print. We all share in the upset and anger over the senseless attacks on innocent people that have occurred, and we also share in the prayers that the World community remains united against what is really a small number of insane people who do not value life or a free society. History has shown that freedom is not free, free men are not equal, and equal men are not free. We will win this war.
A number of you have expressed concerns about what to do given the Anthrax threat and all the media attention on this disease. I will let each one of you draw your own conclusions about anthrax, but my personal opinion that the media has exaggerated and sensationalized what is going. The risk to individual citizens being killed from this bacteria, in my opinion, is low. I attended an Alachua County Medical Society Meeting on bioterrorism this week and the bottom line was that huge quantities (e.g. tons) of anthrax material with a proper delivery system would be needed to do more than isolated damage. Here is factual information.
What is Anthrax and how can people become infected?
Anthrax is a bacteria that has been around for thousands of years. In nature, it is found in spores in soil (primarily in underdeveloped countries) and animals are usually the ones at risk. In the U.S., the disease is rare because animals are vaccinated against Anthrax. People very rarely can become infected from eating undercooked meat from infected or dead animals, and this causes a gastrointestinal form of anthrax characterized by nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal pain. There have been no reported cases of gastrointestinal anthrax in this country.
The most common way of becoming infected is by handling animal hides or wool that have spores on them, but even in this form the person would have to have a cut or break in the skin to allow entry of the germ. This could produce a skin (cutaneous) form of anthrax that is usually easily detected and treated with antibiotics. The lesions look like sores (pimples) that have “blebs” with fluid in them. The fatality rate is less than 1% with appropriate antibiotic therapy.
Inhaled anthrax, the most likely form for use in bioterrorism, is fatal in 80-90% of the cases unless treatment occurs within the first 24 – 36 hours of onset of symptoms (not exposure). In this form an aerosolized form of delivery would need to be used. Fortunately, it would take a very sophisticated delivery method to accomplish this on a widespread scale. Even among hide handlers who are at occupational risk and who inhale hundreds of spores an hour, lung infection rarely occurs, with the last case present in this county 25 years ago. Inhalation anthrax has not been shown to be contagious among humans. Cutaneous anthrax (skin type) could be spread if an open, draining sore fluid got on another person’s skin that was cut or abraded.
What are the symptoms of inhaled anthrax?
Symptoms resemble the flu and include fever, fatigue, malaise and sometimes a dry cough. These symptoms start anywhere from 7-10 days after exposure, but may take as long as 60 days after exposure. There is a period of improvement, followed by rapid progression into breathing difficulty, sweating, cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin and lips). Shock and death usually occur with 24 – 36 hours after the onset of these severe symptoms.
Does everyone who gets exposed come down with anthrax?
No. Anthrax produces spores, which are like “seeds.” Spores, like plant seeds, remain dormant and need proper conditions to germinate. It takes a certain number of spores, somewhere in the 8,000 – 12,000 range according to most infectious disease experts, before infection could occur. In inhalation anthrax spores would have to be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Just getting into the nose is usually not enough. This is why the disease is so rare. So when the news media reports “one spore” on a computer keyboard or in someone’s nose, this is not enough to cause disease. In other words, exposure is not the same thing as being infected or ill with the disease.
Will antibiotics work against anthrax?
Most natural strains of anthrax are highly sensitive to penicillin and Doxycycline (a form of tetracycline). Ciprofloxacin is reserved for use in resistant strains.
Should I start taking antibiotics “prophylactically?”
I do not recommend this. First of all, persons exposed to Anthrax have to take antibiotics for 60 days. Initially, Cipro was being used by our Government and 1 in 5 people were having adverse side-effects. Public health authorities have since switched to Doxycycline, now that they know they are not dealing with genetically altered bacteria, reserving Cipro should a resistant strain be found.
Second of all, taking antibiotics will kill off your natural (“good”) bacteria that provide resistance against other germs, and you may develop resistant strains of bacteria which can make you ill. This would also make it much more difficult to find an effective antibiotic if one was needed. Because the poultry and cattle industry pours tons of antibiotics into the feed of animals crammed in pens and feed lots, you are already being exposed to antibiotics in your food. This, along with indiscriminate overuse of antibiotics by physicians, has led to the many resistant strains of bacteria that we are now facing. This is why I suggest to each one of you to eat Maverick beef and Empire Brand Kosher chicken if you are not a vegetarian. These brands are available in Gainesville at Publix supermarkets and have no pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or preservatives.
Is there an anthrax vaccine?
Yes and no. There is a vaccine that can be made, but it will be used for military personnel only.
What can you do?
To answer this question, one must understand that in order for a person to become infected, a number of different things must occur, including a decreased resistance to infection or breakdown in the person’s immune system, or overwhelming exposure. The risk of getting the flu or bronchitis with the winter season just around the corner is much greater. Almost 20,000 people died last year from the flu in this country v.s. 4 people from Anthrax as of press time. Dr. Erickson’s recommendation is instead of focusing on the disease, focus on the terrain the disease would have to live in, your body. Do everything you can to boost your immunity to make it a healthy and inhospitable place for any infection to occur. Take antioxidant vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, E, beta carotene, selenium and zinc on a daily basis. The doses should be adjusted according to your body’s needs, and Dr. Erickson does this with Contact Reflex Analysis and lab work. Reduce stress as much as possible and get adequate sleep on a regular basis. Wash your hands regularly. If there is a question about personal items, they can be decontaminated with a dilute bleach solution (1 part household bleach to 10 parts water). You may want to limit exposure to large crowds. Steam from a steam iron will kill germs in an envelop as will exposure to ultraviolet light. These things sound very basic, and they are, but they work better than taking Cipro inappropriately.
Is there an alternative natural antibiotic that I could use?
If a person gets anthrax disease, antibiotics are the appropriate therapy. If there is no disease, but there is concern about what to do if you come down with a cold or flu-like illness, there is an herbal antibiotic that is useful and will allow you to avoid unnecessarily taking antibiotics. LDM-100 is an herbal product that we carry at the Preventive Medicine Center as a tincture. Our ten year experience with this particular product has been nothing short of a miracle. Dr. Erickson recently successfully treated a teenager (whose mother is a physician) who had West Nile virus from a mosquito bite with LDM-100 and had resolution of symptoms within 2 days. He has treated influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, strep, sinus and urinary infections successfully with this product. Dr. Erickson has a holistic laboratory make this product, ensuring quality control and a fresh source of the root. Lomatium Dissectum has been used by Native American Indians for centuries to treat both bacterial and viral infections, especially those involving the upper respiratory tract, skin and urinary system. It was used successfully by professional herbalists during the severe influenza epidemic of the 1920′s. We have no documented studies whether it is effective against Anthrax. Dr. Erickson has requested County and State health authorities to test this product in this regard. It is not approved in pregnancy and natural coumarins in Lomatium may exacerbate the effect of blood thinning agents.
At the onset of a flu or sore throat we suggest you start taking LDM-100 per the bottle directions. If you are going to travel or be around a lot of people (e.g. athletic event, concerts, etc.), Dr. Erickson suggests taking LDM-100, one-half dropper prior to travel or the event. He and his family use LDM-100 before and after they fly on an airplane and are exposed to recirculated air. We have had our lab make up additional bottles of LDM. Contact the Center at 352-331-5138 if you wish for us to reserve some for you and your family.
SURVIVING HOLIDAY STRESS
As Charles Dickens once said, this is the best of times, this is the worst of times. He wasn’t referring to the Holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and Hanukkah. This is a time many people look forward to with mixed emotions. On the one hand the holidays hold a promise of warmth, gaiety, kinship with family and friends, and temporary escape from work. On the other hand, it is a well known medical fact that there is more anxiety and depression around the holiday’s than at any other time of the year.
Here are some tips to making it through this season.
• Don’t make unrealistic expectations of things being “perfect.” Every hostess wants to prepare the “perfect meal” for her guests. Every parent or spouse wants to select the “perfect gift” for their children and loved ones. The pressure of being “perfect” creates unnecessary stress. Life is not perfect. So don’t sweat the small stuff, and just do the best you can.
• If you are a guest, make a sincere offer to help . . . but then do as you’re told. Some people would prefer all the help they can get, and others want to do it themselves.
• If you can’t say something nice, keep it to yourself. The stress of the holidays bring out the best and worst in many people. Pressure can make any hostess touchy. And if you haven’t been able to resolve a family feud prior to the holidays, this is not the time to bring up old problems, as tempting as it may seem. Call a truce. If a zinger should be thrown your way, resist the urge to respond (this takes determination).
• To avoid hurt feeling from different parts of the family, divide your time. Alternate holidays if you are in different towns. Or alternate years. If you are in the same town, you could spend time for the main meal with one part of the family, and visit for dessert with the other part.
• Too much holiday cheer can cause embarrassment or worse. If you decide to drink, limit your alcohol consumption, and take Vitamin B-complex to replace what will be burned up by the alcohol. If the host or hostess urge you to have a little more, resist by telling them you’re following your doctor’s orders. Alcohol and many prescription drugs do not mix. And please have a designated driver who is alcohol-free if you must take to the roads.
Get adequate rest. Get a good night’s sleep before an event.
Don’t stop your exercise program. Exercising produces endorphins, which are chemicals that are in our brains that help handle stress. If fact, if you are feeling tense, go out and take a walk. It helps.
Give thanks! My grandfather Farfar, who lived to be 100+ years before passing on, would say “everyday I wake up with my feet on the ground and my head up is a good day!” He would give thanks every day.