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Originally published September 26 2009

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

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(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.

Increased risk in the cities

Large cities in Ecuador and Peru -- notably Guayaquil and Lima -- would be the likely places where swine flu could take hold in those countries. This could be due to a combination of factors, namely the "indoor" lifestyle of city dwellers and the high population densities there.

Public sanitation in South America is also not up to North American standards, so there could be additional spread of the swine flu virus through unclean food handling, for example. The response to the swine flu in cities such as Guayaquil or even Quito would likely be much like the Mexico City response: A cancelling of public events and the distribution of N95 masks to help prevent further spread.

In my opinion, however, these actions are largely unnecessary. The virus is now so widespread that containment is not an effective strategy. Virtually everyone living on the planet can assume they will be exposed to the virus sooner or later, and the key strategies now should focus on surviving exposure (which is very easy to do).

Vaccinations in Ecuador and South America

Unless there is a significant mutation in the virus -- which is always possible -- the current strain of H1N1 circulating around the world does not seem to pose any serious threat to the health of those living in Ecuador and South America. The greater threat, it seems, is from the vaccine itself.

Should a vaccine be mandated in Ecuador, it would like cause far more fatalities than the swine flu itself. By my calculations, 200,000 people would have to be injected with the swine flu vaccine to prevent one death ( And yet injecting 200,000 people with the vaccine is likely to cause more than one fatality from the side effects of the vaccine, meaning that vaccinations are likely to produce a net loss of life.

This is why, based on what I've researched about the swine flu and the vaccine, Ecuador would be far better served to simply skip mandatory vaccine injections and let natural immunity conquer the virus. Given the healthy status of the Ecuadorian people, the country has a strong natural advantage compared to places like the United States where vitamin D deficiencies are rampant.

A mandatory vaccination campaign would also be impossible to enforce in Ecuador. Far too many families live in remote areas to be effectively reached by vaccines (and what's the point if they're so remote anyway?). Furthermore, many Ecuadorian families live on very low incomes and the cost of an additional vaccine for every child would be prohibitive -- even at $5 per vaccine. If the government gave away the vaccine shots for free and made compliance voluntary, it would probably see a fair amount of compliance in the cities, but not in the rural areas of Ecuador (where the virus is virtually no risk anyway).

Quarantine and containment

There is a potential risk of small towns or cities being temporarily quarantined in Ecuador following the discovery of swine flu in the town populations. Ecuador is rugged country, and many cities or towns are connected by only a few key roads. Those roads could be very easily blocked by law enforcement in a quarantine situation, effectively cutting off small towns from the big towns.

For this reason, those who currently live in small towns in Ecuador (such as Vilcabamba) would do well to engage in some preparedness efforts just in case a transportation disruption is put in place. This means storing extra fuel for vehicles or generators, extra food and perhaps some water and basic medical supplies. Where I live in Ecuador at Hacienda San Joaquin, this is all very easy, as there's an abundance of food and water readily available right out your front door.

Most people in Ecuador are extremely resilient and adaptable, and during the rainy season, the rural populations deal with power outages or water outages on a regular basis. So disruptions in basic infrastructure are unlikely to impact rural Ecuadorians in any significant way. Only the cities are at any real risk of suffering any negative effects from such disruptions.

Those living in rural Ecuador, however, would do well to plan for transportation isolation just in case.


Overall, the risk of the current swine flu pandemic generating high fatalities in Ecuador is remarkably small. The health and vitamin D status of the population gives Ecuador a strong natural defense against such pandemics, and the resilience of the population as a whole means that any significant disruptions in infrastructure would be relatively well managed.

There is some risk, however, that things could change as follows:

• The virus could mutate into a much more virulent strain that somehow bypasses the health advantages currently held by Ecuadorians.

• The virus could mutate into a form that could make Ecuadorians more genetically susceptible to infection -- but even that isn't homogenous, as the genotype of the current Ecuadorian population is largely a combination of native regional people and Spanish immigrants.

• The government could overreact to the swine flu by initiating mandatory vaccine campaigns, "infection checkpoints" on major roads or other strategies to try to control the spread of the virus. These are unlikely but within the realm of possibility.

Barring those three possibilities, my estimation is that this season's swine flu impact on Ecuador and most of South America will be relatively mild. In fact, it looks to me like developing nations living closer to the equator will be far better prepared to handle this pandemic than first-world nations who are relying solely on vaccines. Sunlight and vitamin D is far more effective at stopping a pandemic than vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

Editor's Note: I'm writing this from the Hacienda San Joaquin in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, which is considered by many to be the best land in the Americas for growing food and living green. Abundant food, water, sunshine and soils are at your doorstep. Learn more by contacting Joe Simonetta at

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