More flu woo from Mercola

OK, I never really liked Joe Mercola, but when I read about this story on his website, I was encouraged. Boy, do I feel like a sucker.

He started out so well, telling us about the tragic case of a child who died of influenza this year, and how health officials rapidly responded by increasing vaccine availability. Yea! He finally gets it!

Or not.

After the reasonably good piece of journalism, Mercola hops back on to the bat-shit insane wagon.

Joe's commentary starts thusly:

This tragic story is, unfortunately, being used for all the wrong reasons; namely to promote the "universal influenza vaccination for all Americans.

Um, he must have read a different story than I. Unvaccinated girl dies of flu---public health officials respond by trying to prevent a similar tragedy.

But being unburdened by logic or truth, Mercola has an explanation:

There are three major reasons why this government push to vaccinate all children, not to mention adults and the elderly, with the flu shot is so infuriating:

1. The majority of flu shots contain 25 micrograms of mercury; an amount considered unsafe for anyone weighing less than 550 pounds. And who is most sensitive to the neurological damage that has been associated with mercury? Infants and children.

Wrong! This hypothesis has been so completely eviscerated it's a wonder he bothers to drag it out. Most anti-vax cults have begun to change their tactics away from mercury and toward "toxins" (which is a term so vague as to be meaningless).

2. No studies have conclusively proven that flu shots prevent flu-related deaths among the elderly, yet this is one of the key groups to which they're pushed.

Usually, folks like Mercola do their research to avoid making statements that are too easily refuted. EPIC PHAIL! Influenza vaccines have been shown to prevent flu-related morbidity and mortality in the elderly. C'mon, Joe---you can do better than that.

3. If you get a flu shot, you can still get the flu. This is because it only protects against certain strains, and it's anyone's guess which flu viruses will be in your area. It even says so right on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) own Web site:

"The ability of flu vaccine to protect a person depends on two things:

1) the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine, and

2) the similarity or "match" between the virus strains in the vaccine and those in circulation."

Yes, of course. Those of us in the medical community who actually know what we're doing have never said that flu shots protect everybody all the time from every conceivable strain of flu. But in the aggregate, flu shots prevent disease and death. And flu shot's aren't based on "anyone's guess". There actually exists a year-round, world-wide surveillance program that aids in the development of the yearly vaccine. This year's vaccine was notable for it's moderate gap in coverage---most years, the vaccine is so well matched, it isn't an issue.

There is also a good chance that if you get a flu shot, you will come down with symptoms of -- what else? -- the flu. Side effects from the inactivated flu shot include:

* Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
* Fever (low grade)
* Aches

So friggin' what? First, reactions to the flu shot are rare. Second, it's much better to have a few hours of discomfort than a few weeks in and ICU on a ventilator. What an idiot.

So why would you take your chances on a flu shot that has not been proven to be effective, and that can make you feel like you've got the very illness you're trying to prevent? Because the powers that be have done an excellent job of scaring people into believing that they must get a shot to stay healthy.

Beg the question much?

When a denialist uses unproven assertions as valid statements on which to base further arguments, these arguments are also invalid.

He of course goes on to explain the giant conspiracy to take your money and poison you with flu shots, but I won't bother to quote it. You've heard it all before.

But he doesn't leave his readers hanging. He gives them advice for preventing the flu without vaccines:

Here are the "secrets" I use to keep the flu (and other illnesses) at bay:

* Get plenty of sunshine or vitamin D. Fortunately, spring is here in the northern hemisphere and most can finally have access to healthy sunshine on their skin.
* Eat right for your nutritional type, including avoiding sugar
* Exercise
* Get adequate sleep
* Address emotional stress
* Wash your hands regularly (but not excessively)

Great. Just great. What an idiot. Vitamin D, while a very good thing, does not prevent the flu. Thankfully for Mercola, flu drops off in the spring naturally, so he can take the credit.

Eating right is fine ("right for you nutritional type"?) but, as long as you aren't terribly malnourished, changing your eating habits won't prevent the flu, nor will exercise and sleep, although both are good.

Of all his "secrets" listed, hand-washing is probably the most effective. But only vaccination saves lives.

This is not Mercola's best effort. He really should have done his reading.

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This hypothesis has been so completely eviscerated it's a wonder he bothers to drag it out....Influenza vaccines have been shown to prevent flu-related morbidity and mortality in the elderly. C'mon, Joe---you can do better than that....etc.

Read the comments on his site. Does it sound like any of those people are inclined to fact check this stuff? They feel like they're on the inside, the few, the smart ones (which is probably a very novel feeling for them), that is all that matters to them. Besides, compared to some of the magnetic ionic ancient Chinese healing energy crap that people pay handsomely to swallow Mercola is the very model of accuracy. (He did, after all, correctly quote the original article.)

By Alexandra (not verified) on 21 Mar 2008 #permalink

I swear, it feels like my IQ drops whenever I read the comments people leave on his site. Sometimes I have the urge to sign up just so I can post something critical, but I fear some of their brains might just explode.

Check out his creepy "inner circle." Reminds me of a cult.

Mercola IS an idiot, without a doubt. But whether he claims (or deserves) credit for any of the abovementioned illness-avoiding "secrets", some of them may not be entirely without merit. I follow all of those suggestions in addition to some others, like avoiding crowds during the peak of flu season. Oh, and when they start giving flu shots, I'm first in line every year. I like it best when I get a dose containing full-strength thimerosal, in the hope that it will free up a single-dose vial for someone who gives a shit. Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly daring, I even eat tuna.

The seasonality of seasonal flu is something I've been interested in for some time. While no one has yet provided a robust explanation for this phenomenon, seasonal variation in available levels of sunlight appears to be one of the more promising avenues of exploration. Whether it's directly connected with vitamin D or not (and it does appear that some of the claims regarding vitamin D and immunity deserve at least further investigation), I'm convinced enough that the potential benefits sufficiently outweigh the risks of aquiring skin cancer as to make the effort to get ten or fifteen minutes of sun on each of those numerous days when California winter weather makes it available. As a bonus, I'm less likely to suffer from seasonal affective disorder, the exact causal mechanism of which, while also poorly understood, is definitely associated with light. I'm actually not thoroughly convinced that hand washing significantly reduces the risk of exposure to influenza (in particular), though I'm borderline obsessive about that, too.

What makes a guy like Mercola dangerous isn't that he's completely wrong about everything, but that some of his ideas have at least some basis in fact. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

**sigh** I heard the same crap you attribute to Mercola from an RN at the VA med center I'm part of last month. She was spreadin g the word, so to speak. When so-called professionals believe it, what's a layperson to do? PS- the RN was incensed that I, a mere PhD and med school faculty member would dare to correct her.

Sick and tired of being a guine pig for the Government and the medical feild.
What will happen to the people that take the shot for 20,30,50,and/or even 70 years? You Don't Know...

You Don't Know...

Yes We Do...

By LanceR, JSG (not verified) on 08 Apr 2009 #permalink

Sick and tired of being a guine pig for the Government and the medical feild.

Then stop signing up for clinical trials.

Ok smart ass MArk.let's see your proof they work.. I just did a pub med search for a paper in grad school and guess what? I aint finding good things about flu vaccine in terms of hospitalizations, MD visits absenteeism.. Pneumo vax yes but flu vaccine no..
if they dont guess right a season before, the flu vaccine is worthless.. show me stats on the right hypothesis and I will believe you. Unitl then I will keep taking my vit D and work as a nurse making some OT while the rest of my Flu vaccine coolaid drinking coworkers call in sick like they do every winter.. inf act just after this years mass vaccination the sick calls were insane!!!

By Flucaccine skeptic (not verified) on 01 Nov 2009 #permalink

I think Mercola is right on track. I haven't had a flu shot in 15 years and haven't had the flu since. I do all the things he says to do, and I feel great, as do my husband and daughter. Eating right is everything. It amazes me how people fight lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) but want to take pills and shots for everything. What a waste of money. All he is saying is improve your immune system (like with Vit D) and your body can fight the flu. We really don't know what the long term effects of all these drugs are. And when the day is done, so many more people die from drunk driving accidents than flu, but that doesn't make the front page.

Mercola is "off" on certain dietary things, However, he's right about vaccines and some other things.

No. He's not. Not by a wide margin. He's so far from "right" that the light from "right" is going to take a thousand years to reach him.

By LanceR, JSG (not verified) on 14 Dec 2009 #permalink