Did Aspirin Contribute to Flu Deaths?

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Did 1918 Spanish Flu Deaths Result From Aspirin-Induced Scurvy (Vitamin C Deficiency)?

by Bill Sardi

Recently by Bill Sardi: The American Flu Charade

The Daytona Beach News Journal cites the death of a 15-year-old New Smyrna Beach high school student, a confirmed swine-flu victim. The report says: “This student struggled with medical conditions his entire life. He was at higher risk for medical complications.” [Daytona Beach News Journal, October 8, 2009]

A Texas 8th-grader was diagnosed with the flu on Wednesday at the doctor’s office and denied the anti-viral drug Tamiflu because she wasn’t "high risk." Her mother was advised to continue monitoring her daughter whose condition worsened with "crackling sounds in her lungs." She was finally hospitalized on Saturday. This otherwise healthy child succumbed to the flu by Sunday morning. [WFAA-TV 11 news Sept 30, 2009]

The CDC also just released a report showing a striking mortality rate among pregnant women. Among 100 pregnant women hospitalized due to influenza infection, 28 died. This is an unprecedented 28% mortality rate! [Washington Post October 2, 2009] There is no way to confirm this alarming report since it is not cited in a published report that can be examined. A CDC transcript only says "28 pregnant women have died." (Scare tactic by the CDC?) A published report does show 6 of 45 pregnant women infected with the pandemic H1N1 virus infection died during the period from April 15 to June 16, 2009. [Lancet 374; 451—57, 2009] However, no data is provided that vaccination prevented the women who survived from a fatal consequence.

These reports are being released in the news media’s effort to launch the nation’s flu vaccination program, in hopes that more Americans will elect to undergo vaccination and flu-related deaths may be prevented. While vaccination for the flu may avert flu symptoms or viral infection altogether, will vaccination actually prevent flu-related deaths? Maybe not.

What Americans are hearing from the Centers for Disease Control via the news media is that "Two-thirds of the U.S. children who have died of H1N1 complications had high-risk medical conditions, but another third were healthy before getting flu. Most of the latter group probably died from co-illnesses: H1N1 and a bacterial infection working together, health officials said." [Knox Tennessee News Nov. 8, 2009]

Would the flu vaccine in fact prevent deaths in immune-compromised subjects? That can only be assumed. In fact, it is inappropriate to administer the nasally-instilled "live" flu vaccine to subjects with weakened immunity.

Missing factor

There seems to be something missing in explanations why otherwise healthy and younger adults die from the flu. Does a dark angel just come visit these kids that die and take them? Fearing a repeat of the 1918 Spanish flu, which resulted in millions of deaths worldwide, what could be done to avert a similar deadly pandemic now?

Dr. Karen M. Starko MD provides us with some important clues. She hypothesizes the high mortality rates due to the 1918 Spanish flu resulted from the over-use of aspirin. The evidence Dr. Starko provides is compelling.

  • Physicians of the day were unaware that the recommended medication regimens (8.0—31.2 grams per day, or 8000 to 31,200 milligrams) during that time period produce aspirin levels associated with hyperventilation (33%) and fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema 3%) of subjects.
  • Accumulation of fluid in the lungs was recently found in 46% of 26 aspirin-intoxicated adults. In lab experiments, aspirin increases lung fluid and impairs clearance of mucus.
  • In 1918 aspirin was recommend by the US Surgeon General, the US Navy, and the Journal of the American Medical Association just prior to the October death spike.
  • Bayer first introduced water-soluble aspirin tablets in 1900. Farbenfabriken Bayer’s worldwide distribution of aspirin had been accomplished in the same year as the flu pandemic. Aspirin sales more than doubled from 1918 to 1920.
  • The US Army camp with the highest mortality rate had ordered 100,000 aspirin tablets.
  • Young children were not given aspirin as widely as young adults, which may explain why the young had a lower mortality rate in the 1918 flu. [Clinical Infectious Diseases 2009; 49: online Sept. 29]

The descriptions of flu-related, aspirin-induced lung disease by Dr. Starko are gripping. She cites records of doctors describing aspirin lung as looking like "the lungs of the drowned." There were small hemorrhages in the lungs which appeared "dark and red and wet, dripping wet."

Dr. Starko cites doctors who described "frothy, blood-tinged fluid" in the lungs of patients who had died during the 1918 flu outbreak. There were also frank lung hemorrhages.

Dr. Starko goes on to describe aspirin-induced symptoms to include brain swelling, pinpoint red dots on the skin called petechiae, blue coloration of the skin and mucus membranes (cyanosis), along with vomiting and nose bleeds. These are not symptoms characteristic of the flu.

Another common finding among records of mortal flu cases in 1918 was brain swelling, called cerebral edema. Cerebral edema also occurs with the use of aspirin and in Reye’s syndrome. [Acta Neurologica Scandinavia Supplement 2007; 186:45—56]

This is exactly how a patient with severe vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) dies. In scurvy capillaries are weak and red blood cells leak into surrounding tissues, like the brain, lungs and eyes, which was observed among the 1918 flu victims.

Yes, aspirin depletes the body of vitamin C. Aspirin is known as one of the most powerful drugs at depleting vitamin C in normally healthy individuals. [Journal Clinical Pharmacology 1973; 13: 480] Modern medicine appears to have overlooked this well-documented fact.

The volume of literature that confirms aspirin depletes vitamin C is extensive.

A study of rheumatoid arthritis patients is instructive. Rheumatoid patients often exhibit low vitamin C blood levels. In one early study the only rheumatoid patients with normal vitamin C levels were those taking vitamin supplements. In this study, significantly low blood platelet levels were found only in those rheumatoid patients receiving high-dose aspirin — 12 or more tablets per day. Poor blood clotting and low blood platelet levels, characteristic of scurvy, were also prevalent in this group. [Lancet 1971 May 8; 1(7706):937—8]

A major drawback of aspirin therapy is that it may induce bleeding gastric ulcers. When buffered (alkalinized) aspirin plus vitamin C is employed, there is a measurable reduction in microscopic bleeding in the gastric tract, better than buffering alone. [Alimentary Pharmacology Therapy 2004 Feb 1; 19(3):367—74] As aspirin-induced gastric bleeding may induce anemia or even death, it is odd modern medicine does not mandate incorporation of vitamin C into aspirin tablets.

Another way aspirin depletes vitamin C from the body is via excretion in the kidneys. Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that is readily excreted in the urine and which requires repeated oral intake throughout the day to maintain adequate levels. Aspirin increases the excretion of vitamin C via the kidneys. [Proceedings Society Experimental Biology Medicine 1936; 35: 20]

Vitamin C and white blood cells

Relying upon blood plasma levels of vitamin C among aspirin users to determine vitamin adequacy can be misleading. In healthy individuals, blood plasma levels of vitamin C do rise when taking aspirin and supplemental vitamin C. Everything appears normal. However, aspirin blocks the entry of vitamin C into white-blood cells, which goes unmeasured. Vitamin C adequacy in the blood plasma serves to distract a physician from the dire state of vitamin C depletion in the white blood cells.

A shortage of vitamin C in white blood cells reduces their activity against viral attack. [Annals New York Academy Science 1975 Sept 30; 258: 355—76]

In a decades-old study, the concentration of vitamin C in white blood cells was measured in patients with gastrointestinal hemorrhage. The white-blood-cell vitamin C concentration was 14.2 micrograms per 108 cells versus 23.7 micrograms in healthy individuals. Vitamin C concentration in white blood cells was found to be lowest among aspirin users in this study. [Lancet 1968; 292 (7568); 603—606]

In an experiment conducted among healthy adults, the acidity of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) apparently aided the absorption of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) so that the combined administration of 600 mg of aspirin with 500 mg of vitamin C produced a greater increase in blood plasma vitamin C levels than with vitamin C alone, but the aspirin completely arrested uptake of vitamin C into white blood cells! [Annals New York Academy Science 1975 Sept 30; 258: 355—76]

The flu and vitamin C deficiency

One explanation why the elderly are typically more prone to die of the flu may be that the concentration of vitamin C in blood plasma and white-blood cells progressively diminish during life, reaching minimal levels at the age of 60. [Journal Vitamin Nutrition Research 1971; 41:258]

Furthermore, senior adults are more likely to be plagued with the aches and pains of old age and reach for an aspirin tablet more often than younger adults. Additionally, older adults take more drugs, many which deplete vitamin C, such as tetracycline antibiotics, iron, estrogen replacement and steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Cigarettes and alcohol are also vitamin C destroyers. [British Medical Journal 1975; 1 (5951) 208]

Concern over high mortality rates among pregnant women may be explained by a shortage of vitamin C. Vitamin C levels decrease during ovulation and during pregnancy. [Annals New York Academy Science 1975 Sept 30; 258: 355—76]

In a more recent experiment, mice were genetically altered so they did not synthesize vitamin C in their liver as most other animals do (guinea pigs, primates, and humans are an exception as they don’t naturally produce vitamin C within the liver and must completely rely upon the diet for vitamin C). These vitamin C-deficient mice were inoculated with influenza virus and experienced massive damage to their lungs compared to vitamin C-adequate mice. Researchers concluded that supplemental "vitamin C is required for an adequate immune response and in limiting lung pathology after influenza virus infection." [Journal Nutrition. 2006 Oct; 136(10):2611—6]

Aspirin, influenza, Reye’s syndrome link to vitamin C deficiency

Another flu/aspirin-related condition is Reye’s syndrome. Aspirin use by children during viral infections is not advised because this can result in a potentially fatal outcome. Health authorities warn that aspirin is NOT to be used during episodes of fever-causing illness.

Reye’s syndrome was first described by Dr. R. Douglas Reye of Australia in 1963. [Lancet 1963; 2: 749—52] It is said the origin of Reye’s syndrome is still unknown. Reye’s syndrome is often misdiagnosed and it can occur without the use of aspirin. [Archives Pediatrics 2002 Jun; 9(6):581—6] In light of what has been learned here, this suggests an underlying vitamin C deficiency may be involved in unexplained cases of Reye’s syndrome.

While Dr. Reye’s receives credit for his description of this aspirin-related syndrome in more recent times, descriptions of similar syndromes date back to 1929 in the medical literature. Sadly, modern medicine has missed the vitamin C connection to this syndrome for decades.

Reye’s syndrome was killing a lot of children, with mortality rates ranging from 17.8% to 89.6% depending upon severity, up until the early 1980s when health advisories warned of this aspirin-related problem. An analysis of 1134 Reye’s syndrome cases revealed an alarming 31.3% overall mortality rate. Beginning in 1986 the labels on aspirin bottles warned of this problem and the number of Reye’s cases dropped considerably. [New England Journal Medicine 1999 May 6; 340(18):1377—82]

Bird flu mortality and Reye’s syndrome

The deadly H5N1 avian flu virus is reported to have a 60% mortality rate (6 in 10 infected die), but fortunately has poor human-to-human transmission.

It is interesting to note that the very first confirmed death from H5N1 involved a 3-year-old boy with good past health who developed pneumonia with accompanying complications of Reye’s syndrome. [Journal Paediatric Child Health. 1999 April; 35(2):207—9] Inquiry of the child’s use of aspirin or supplemental vitamin C was not recorded, nor was blood sample drawn to obtain a vitamin C level.

Another study involving the first confirmed H5N1 influenza diagnoses was comprised of 7 patients over the age of 13 with 4 deaths, and 5 patients under the age of 5, one who died with Reye’s syndrome associated with intake of aspirin. [Lancet. 1998 Feb 14; 351(9101):467—71]

An intriguing case of mortal H5N1 flu infection was reported in 1998 involving a 3-year-old child in Hong Kong. The H5N1 virus was isolated from tracheal aspiration samples. The young patient had no direct contact with affected chickens. Since the H5N1 flu virus has poor human-to-human transmission, doctors were puzzled by this case. [Lancet. 1998 Feb 14; 351(9101):472—7] This report would be better explained by examination of aspirin or anti-inflammatory drug use and leukocyte (white-blood cell) vitamin C concentration.

Conclusions

If overuse of aspirin during the 1918 Spanish flu was the primary cause of flu-related death as Dr. Karen Starko contends, then modern medicine has missed a large lesson on how to prevent flu-related death — that it was aspirin-induced scurvy that heightened mortality during this worldwide flu pandemic, maybe not the flu itself. If this hypothesis is true, then preventable mortality continues today. Many hundreds of thousands have needlessly succumbed to a vitamin C deficiency induced by self-treatment with aspirin and/or modern medicine’s continued failing to practice nutritional medicine.

It is not like vitamin pills could have averted the vitamin C-related deaths then. Vitamin C had not been discovered till ~1928 by Hungarian researcher Albert Szent-Györgyi and was not commercially available till a few years later. Vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits would have had to be relied upon then. But 8 decades later, physicians aren’t routinely screening their flu patients for aspirin use and aren’t advising their patients to take supplemental vitamin C.

The facts are clear — a pharmaceutical company widely promoted aspirin pills — a pill that depletes vitamin C from the human body, a pill that prevents blood clots, helps to reduce the risk for heart attacks and gastric cancer, and is a trusted pain reliever, but its biggest drawback is that it depletes vitamin C. This drawback could have deadly consequences.

The prevalence of vitamin C-deficiency related to aspirin use is unmonitored. Over 50,000 tons of aspirin is produced annually, which is equivalent to 50 billion aspirin tablets. About 1 trillion aspirin tablets have been swallowed since its first availability in the early 1900s.

Aspirin kills thousands of people annually, mostly from gastric-tract hemorrhages. [Annals Internal Medicine 1997; 127: 429—38]

More deaths may be attributed to aspirin use than previously recognized. The footprints of this vitamin C deficiency syndrome are all over the diagnostic flu map, yet they have been missed for decades.

According to listings at the National Library of Medicine (PubMed), there are over 2000 published reports concerning Reye’s syndrome, but no published studies involving Reye’s syndrome and vitamin C deficiency. There are only six published studies involving flu mortality and vitamin C. With a research budget in the billions of dollars, the National Institutes of Health is remiss in not delving into the connection between vitamin C deficiency, aspirin use, flu-related death and Reye’s syndrome.

Researcher John T. Ely, emeritus professor at the University of Washington, says white blood cells multiply more rapidly and ingest and eradicate viruses more effectively when vitamin C concentrations are high. Dr. Ely emphasizes the human immune system "must have ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to prevent and/or cure influenza." [Experimental Biology Medicine (Maywood) 2007 July; 232(7):847—51]

In regard to my series of articles critical of flu vaccination posted at LewRockwell.com, an online blogger writes: “Bill Sardi doesn’t know what it is like to have a family member die of the flu.” That is precisely my point here. The public assumes the vaccines prevent death.

Vaccines may reduce symptoms and prevent infection, if the vaccinee is able to generate sufficient antibodies, and if the vaccine contains a strain of the virus currently in circulation (not so in this year’s seasonal flu vaccine), and if the dosage is correct (many need two inoculations to develop immunity), and if there is no treatment resistance, and if, and only if, nutritional status is adequate to avert a fatal outcome.

There is only contrived evidence vaccines prevent death. There is incontrovertible evidence that a shortage of vitamin C, emanating from poor diet, smoking, overuse of alcohol, aspirin, or vitamin-depleting drugs (the very drugs they treat flu patients with — steroids, antibiotics, etc.), is likely the primary cause of flu-related mortality.

What this report alleges is that modern medicine casts a blind eye at nutritional medicine because they need deaths, published in the news media, to frighten the public into vaccination. This morning I read news reports saying another 16 American children died of the H1N1 pandemic flu.

Fear is the pandemic. Health agencies and the news media are doing their best to spread it. The facts are stark — regardless of the evidence provided, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization aren’t going to rush to recommend vitamin C pills. These so-called health agencies are obliged to produce profits for the vaccine makers, who in turn pay off politicians in the nation’s capitol, in what becomes circular profiteering by politician and drug manufacturer.

Fear clouds the mind. People ask, "if not vaccines, what are we to do, take a useless vitamin C pill? Are we going to let our children die?" Their minds have been inoculated with the thought that vitamin C is a weak player next to a killer pandemic virus. In fact, as revealed in this article, the lack of vitamin C may be attributed to most of the flu deaths over the past century.

How much clearer can I make my plea? The first vaccine made available is the nasally-instilled live-virus vaccine which induces viral shedding for 5 days following inoculation and spreads the disease to family members, teachers, grandmothers, everybody. The vaccine industry knows how to jump start a flu season — begin with the live-virus vaccine. Don’t fall victim to this evil vaccination scheme. The deaths will continue till health authorities address nutritional status. A 100% vaccination rate would not quell mortality rates.

To minimize the risk of flu-related death, the public is going to have to take matters into their own hands and proceed with unguided use of supplemental vitamin C. Asking doctors about vitamin C to treat the flu will produce a predictable answer — "that idea is unproven." It is just that doctors are ignorant on this point, not that there is no credible evidence.

As a final note, it needs to be said that vitamin C should be incorporated into aspirin pills, to avert or minimize serious side effects such as gastric or brain hemorrhage, or at least aspirin pills should be labeled to inform consumers of the hazards posed by its depletion of vitamin C.

Modern medicine’s narrow approach, to treat every disease as if it were a drug deficiency, has resulted in a steep price for humanity. It is obvious millions have died prematurely since vitamin C was first discovered over 80 years ago. Brave and resolute men and women, Albert Szent-Gyrgyi, Irwin Stone, Linus Pauling, Ewan Cameron, Emil Ginter, Matthias Rath, Andrew Saul, Tom Levy, Steve Hickey, Raxit Jariwalla, John T. Ely, Hilary Roberts, and others promoted the idea of vitamin C therapy but were readily dismissed, even belittled.

It is said, you don’t die of the flu — you die of the subsequent fluid accumulation in your lungs (pneumonia) and secondary bacterial infection as a result of the flu. In this regard, the discoverer of vitamin C, Albert Szent-Gyrgyi MD, PhD, said this: "If you do not have sufficient vitamins and get a cold, and as a sequence pneumonia, your diagnosis will not be u2018lack of ascorbic acid’ but u2018pneumonia.’ So you are waylaid immediately." [The Healing Factor, Irwin Stone, 1972]

Addendum: Does vaccination prevent flu-related death?

Given this author’s negative tack on flu vaccination, frequent challenges are received for me to disclose data on whether the flu vaccine saves lives or not.

The question of whether flu shots avert flu-related death is a difficult question to answer.

Not every influenza virus, nor every pneumonia death, is confirmed by laboratory testing. The Centers for Disease Control employs statistical methods, not body counts, to come up with flu-related mortality figures.

Some guesstimates indicate large numbers of vaccinated populations having been spared their lives. However, one group of researchers report that excess deaths attributable to influenza have only been 5—10% on average in flu seasons in the past several decades. They argue that flu shots could not possibly have prevented more deaths than the 5%—10% of excess deaths in the population. [Archives Internal Medicine 2005; 165(3):265—272; Lancet Infectious Diseases 2007; 7(10):658—666; New England Journal Medicine 2007; 357(26):2729—2730] It’s obvious some pseudoscience has been produced.

While observational studies indicate mortality rates during flu seasons are much lower in vaccinated elderly groups, and Kaiser health plan doctors found elderly patients who died were less likely to have been vaccinated (45% versus 63% among survivors), recently investigators found that the vaccinated had relatively low mortality (death) and morbidity (disease) compared to the unvaccinated, even before the start of the flu season, which would certainly skew the data for analysis. Much of the difference in mortality between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups may be attributable to what is called selection bias.

Kaiser Health Plan researchers suggest vaccination prevents ~25 deaths per 100,000 elderly people vaccinated in a study year. If this figure is projected to larger senior-adult populations, then flu vaccination would prevent ~250 deaths per 1 million vaccinees and 2500 deaths among 10 million vaccinees. The Kaiser study guesstimates, if no elderly patients were vaccinated the excess mortality rate during the flu season would be ~9.8% and with 60% vaccination coverage, this figure would drop to ~4.6%, a relative 47% reduction. Of course, these numbers are guesstimates because the number of deaths among the unvaccinated has to be estimated. In the Kaiser study, about 4000 elderly people had to be vaccinated for 1 flu-related death to be prevented. One can easily see the flaw in these estimates when one considers in many past flu seasons the vaccine didn’t match the flu strain in circulation. Furthermore, the Kaiser study had no way to determine if a deceased patient had actually received a flu shot in a non-Kaiser facility (nursing home) where Kaiser doesn’t monitor vaccination rates. So some vaccine failures may not have been reported. [American Journal Epidemiology 2009 September 1; 170(5): 650—656]

Bill Sardi [send him mail] is a frequent writer on health and political topics. His health writings can be found at www.naturalhealthlibrarian.com. He is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Of Cancer Anymore.

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