Monday, September 28, 2009

Swine flu pandemic: How will it impact Ecuador and South America vs. North America?

(NaturalNews) Living in Ecuador, I've overheard many discussions about the swine flu pandemic and its possible impact on Ecuador, South America and Central America. This article offers an analysis of likely scenarios based on what has been observed so far with the behavior of the swine flu around the world.

When considering the potential impact on Ecuador, the most important thing to realize about swine flu is that the number of people dying from swine flu exposure is quite small. This indicates the current mild state of the virus, indicating that unless it mutates into a significantly more virulent strain, the total number of fatalities will likely remain quite low (perhaps 75,000 or so in the U.S., making it roughly 2.5 times more deadly than a typical flu season if you believe CDC numbers).

Those currently dying from the swine flu in the United States tend to have two things in common:

#1) Obesity

#2) Severe vitamin D deficiency

Both of these conditions are rampant in North America, and they both contribute to greatly increased risk of a fatality from the swine flu. The mechanisms are fairly straightforward: Obesity is an inflammatory condition that contributes to respiratory inflammation typically leading to a bacterial pneumonia that kills many victims. Vitamin D deficiency creates a physiological environment in which the virus can spread easily while inciting the "cytokine storm" response that leads to fatal respiratory infections.

North America is unique in the world in suffering from very high rates of both obesity and vitamin D deficiency. South America, on the other hand, has far lower rates of both. In Ecuador (and Vilcabamba in particular), children, teens and adults still spend a considerable number of hours playing outdoors. Volleyball games are part of the culture there, and due to the near-perfect climate in many areas, a considerable portion of the population spends time walking outdoors (to the shop, to the farm, to the Sunday market, to church, etc.). Many people also don't own vehicles, so walking or bicycling is still a common form of transportation in many areas.

The upshot of all this is that few Ecuadorians are vitamin D deficient. And relatively few are overweight or obese. This makes the risk of a runaway swine flu pandemic extremely small in Ecuador. Other countries like Brazil and Peru have similarly low risk due to the enhanced health and outdoor lifestyles of their populations.

In South America, there also remains a culture of eating many locally-grown plants (in home gardens, etc.) and medicinal herbs (such as Hierba Luisa tea or local Ecuadorian Horchata, which is made from as many as 30 different medicinal plants). The anti-viral properties of these herbs and plants are quite strong, and this provides the people of Ecuador with natural protections against many forms of influenza. Simply eating and drinking the local foods and beverages is, all by itself, a form of medicinal protection against swine flu.

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