Flu Medicines Can Increase Spread of the Virus

By Gemma Tarlach | January 22, 2014 10:01 am

woman flu

Got the flu? Think twice before you pop a pill to feel better.

Most over-the-counter flu medications include a fever-reducing ingredient such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. But suppressing fever, according to new research, actually increases the number of seasonal flu cases by at least 5 percent in the U.S., and could cause as many as 1,000 additional deaths from influenza nationally each year.

Fever Defense

Fever acts as a kind of defense mechanism for our bodies. The normal human temperature creates a cozy environment perfect for many microbes, including the influenza family of viruses, to live and replicate. As our body temperature rises with a fever, however, the viruses replicate less efficiently. Fewer viruses in the body mean a lower risk of transmitting the pathogen to other people.

Reducing a fever has the opposite effect, allowing the virus to replicate freely and possibly for a longer period, which increases the risk of infecting others. But that’s only half the story: Since the infected person probably feels better (or at least a little less miserable), he’s more likely to go to work or school, coming into contact with many more people.

Flu Transmission

Researchers gathered information about influenza transmission for both humans and ferrets, which are the animal model of choice to study how the virus might work in us. Using statistical analysis of the data, they determined that widespread use of fever-reducing medication actually increased the number of cases of seasonal flu in the United States by 5 percent. According to a 2009 study, the infamous 1918 influenza pandemic may have been worsened, in fact, by widespread use of aspirin, another fever suppressant.

The latest findings, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, come in the thick of flu season for North America and during a spike in China of new cases of H7N9, one of influenza’s newer and more deadly strains.

Image by Subbotina Anna / Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Gene Partlow

    I’m guessing that reducing fever, unless really necessary, will also give the flu viruses more
    time to mutate, including the exchange of
    dna/rna material between them and other
    viruses in vivo. This could lead to an increase
    in virulence in itself.

    • empireinrecline

      nope, it doesn’t work that way. Flu is a negative sense double stranded RNA virus. There is no exchange of any genetic material during a flu infection with the host DNA, and the only mixing the virus would do would be with another flu virus, an H1 and H3 coinfection in the same cell, for instance. The error rate in the flu genome is due to transcription errors in the human (or dog or horse or whale or bird) RNA polymerase, for which I have never seen a reduction in fidelity over a few degree temperature difference. Fever response helps the immune system work more efficiently and is actually more of a deterrent to bacterial infections because enzymes are temperature sensitive and a few degree rise can give bacteria a decent efficiency hit that your body can take advantage of. With viruses, they replicate using your own cells’ “machinery” so it’s not the same.

  • d-dectiri

    It’s always amazing to see how assiduously the failed technologies of standard medicine engage in sophistry when the real solution is readily solved and what’s needed is given.

    Back in 1992, Hennet, Peterhans and Stocker showed that mice infected with influenza, showed a sudden and severe drop in their levels of C, which is stunning since mice are quite capable of synthesizing substantial amounts of their own C as needed otherwise.

    As a result those in Orthomolecular Medicine and similar disciplines rapidly supply C to a flu victim in high and continuous doses slnce humans aren’t as talented as mice in the C ability at all, with the result of a rapid cure with the proper dose. Doses of as much as 40-some grams or more, delivered like Saul did at 2g every 6 minutes to cure severe viral pneumonia in 3 hours (though that C support was continued til evening). Let the body use its own wisdom in untangling the symptoms and save your sophistry on failed pharmaceuticals for swabbing the lab floors.. ttyl

    • Tomek Brzezinski

      And, yet, other studies show vitamin C to not help at all….You may want to look up some of the dissenting evidence too.

      As just a qualitative thought, if vitamin C levels dropped with administration of influenza, there’s no immediate reason to believe that isn’t the body itself doing this. In cases of bacterial infection the body can benefit from reducing (new example) iron availability, because the body’s cells more readily cope with the limited availability compared to the bacterial invaders.

      …I dont know why I bother posting, though. But I mean it as a friendly communication.

      • d-dectiri

        Thanks for asking…

        I do have the source for you in your quest to read the full RANGE of research on C.. check with your library, or better yet, amazon, and get a copy of Dr Thomas E Levy’s excellent review of over 1200 research papers on C, in meticulous detail, including the ones you hoped to hide behind.

        In each case where ‘no effect’ was found, it was clearly an attempt to do a half-headed research coverup by USING INADEQUATE DOSING.. you will get pregnant if you don’t do the dose adequately..

        The title of the book is Curing the Incurable… from polio, whooping cough, measles, to rabies, to venomous bites and pesticide exposures.. ttyl

      • Neil

        How dare you bring reason and a calm affability to this comments section? We’re trying to peddle absurd panacea/government-conspiracy theories here!

  • Doc Lem

    Vaporize cannabis for the flu… Works good.

  • sickandtired

    I swear by hot bath and hot tea to raise my body’s temperature to make my body sweat.I start this as soon as I feel something might be creeping on.
    I wish I had sauna.
    I also use oregano oil and MMS if I get sore throat.
    In 2-3 days I am as good as new.
    Works every time.

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