Senator Dies From Sepsis, a Common Complication of Infection, Including Influenza

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

risk-benefit of vaccines

Story at-a-glance -

  • New York State Senator José Peralta — an outspoken proponent of annual flu vaccinations — died November 22, 2018, at the age of 47 from sudden septic shock
  • Sepsis is one of the leading causes of influenza-related deaths. When your immune system is weak, influenza can weaken it further, allowing a secondary infection to take hold. Sepsis is typically caused by this secondary infection
  • Before vaccines against the following diseases became available and were routinely used, the annual death toll in the U.S. from rubella was 17 to 24; mumps 39 to 50, chickenpox 105 to 138 and measles 440 to 552
  • For comparison, each year 100 people die from being struck by lightning, 200 die from choking on food, 350 die from slip and fall accidents in the bath or shower, 15,000 die from Clostridium difficile infections, 40,000 from car crashes and 250,000 from medical errors
  • While some vaccines have indisputably saved lives, one must also compare the estimated number of lives saved against the number of people harmed by that same vaccine. Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to accurately ascertain vaccine-related harm due to severe underreporting and lack of investigation of serious health problems reported after vaccination


When this article was published, the information on what caused Peralta’s death was that it was sepsis. Our source, the New York Post, quoted Peralta’s widow, who told the Post that the New York Medical Examiner’s (ME) office told her that Peralta died of organ failure due to septic shock, aka, sepsis.

Our reporting, like that of several major mainstream media, was done in good faith based on the information available at that time. As of January 15, 2019, the Post and other media have reported that Peralta died naturally from “complications of acute promyelocytic leukemia.” 

The Post added that “A source familiar with the ME’s determination noted that septic shock ‘was a complication directly related to the fact that he had cancer,’ noting there were likely other complications that contributed to his unexpected death.”

Original article:

When it comes to vaccination, it pays to do a risk-to-benefit evaluation before making up your mind. Public health officials argue that universal use vaccine recommendations and vaccine mandates have saved countless lives that would otherwise have been lost to infectious childhood diseases. What they fail to adequately address is accurately measuring the overall risk involved.

This applies no matter which vaccine is under question, although some vaccines are clearly more reactive or less effective than others, calling into question universal use policies and mandates: the hepatitis B vaccine for newborns, HPV vaccine and seasonal influenza vaccines being among the most obvious ones in this regard.

Problematically, many if not all vaccines have the ability to impair immune function, at least temporarily, which can have devastating consequences for some people, especially individuals who are more susceptible to adverse responses to vaccination.1

For example, while it’s unclear what kind of infection caused a New York State senator to die from sepsis, he had recently received a flu shot and avoided seeking medical attention thinking his illness was a routine minor side effect of the vaccine.

As it turns out, sepsis is being increasingly linked to influenza infection, and is a complication of influenza that people need to be aware of, even if they’ve been vaccinated, as the flu vaccine can increase susceptibility to infections. I’ll discuss these issues further below, but first, let’s take a look at some statistics worthy of consideration when you’re trying to decide whether to vaccinate yourself or your children.

Using Mortality Statistics to Evaluate Vaccine Risks and Benefits

A recent Medium article2 addresses vaccine risk-benefit evaluation head-on, providing some eye-opening statistical comparisons. Before vaccines against the following diseases became available and were routinely used, the annual death toll in the U.S. from several of the most common childhood diseases were as follows:

  • Rubella: 17 (average) to 24 (peak)3
  • Mumps: 39 (average) to 50 (peak)4
  • Rotavirus: 20 (average) to 60 (peak)5
  • Chickenpox (varicella): 105 (average) to 138 (peak)6
  • Measles: 440 (average) to 552 (peak)7

How does the risk of dying from each of these infectious diseases compare to dying from other causes? Following are a few noteworthy examples highlighted in the featured article.

Each year, 100 people die from being struck by lightning,8 200 die from choking on food, 350 die from slip and fall accidents in the bath or shower,9 15,000 die from Clostridium difficile infections,10 40,000 from car crashes11 and 250,000 from medical errors.12 Nutritionist Luke Yamaguchi provides this perspective:

“Comparing the numbers, we can see that the odds of dying from lightning are greater than the odds of dying from rubella, mumps and rotavirus. ‘Food in the windpipe’ is a greater cause of death than either the chickenpox or hepatitis A. The measles, on the other hand, is more deadly than bathing.

If we are not afraid of eating solid food, taking a bath or walking outside on a rainy day, then why are we afraid of these infectious diseases?” Yamaguchi asks.13

“If my odds of dying from the chickenpox are about the same as my odds of dying from a lightning strike, then that is a risk I’m willing to take … Call me crazy, but I don’t mind playing those odds.

Especially when there are things that I can do proactively to boost my immune system naturally and reduce my risk of dying from any infectious disease — not just the ones for which there is a vaccine.”

Harm — The Other Side of the Benefit Equation

The risk-benefit evaluation cannot end there, however. While some vaccines have indisputably saved lives, one must also compare the estimated number of lives saved against the number of people harmed by that same vaccine.

As noted by Yamaguchi, while vaccine benefits have been well-quantified, virtually no attempt has been made to accurately quantify the amount of harm done and, without that, you cannot get an accurate picture of a vaccine’s true value to public health.

Using the measles vaccine as an example, and without adjusting for population growth, Yamaguchi estimates some 24,200 lives have been saved by this vaccine over the past 55 years.

Meanwhile, as of March 31, 2018, more than 89,355 adverse reaction reports have been filed with the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) in the U.S. following vaccination with the measles vaccine, including 1,657 disabilities and 445 deaths.14

While those statistics still come out in favor of the measles vaccine saving more lives than it takes, it is important to take into account the fact that an estimated 99 percent of adverse reactions to vaccines are never reported to VAERS. As noted in 2011 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:15

“Adverse events from vaccines are common but underreported, with less than 1 percent reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Low reporting rates preclude or delay the identification of ‘problem’ vaccines, potentially endangering the health of the public. New surveillance methods for drug and vaccine adverse effects are needed.”

No Definitive Answers for Which Is More Dangerous — Measles or the MMR Vaccine

Once the available VAERS reports are multiplied by 100 to get a more accurate estimate of the actual harm, you end up with 9 million adverse reactions associated with the measles vaccine as of March 31, 2018, including 165,700 disability cases and 44,500 deaths.

Also consider that VAERS was not started until 1990,16 27 years after the introduction of the measles vaccine in the U.S. in 1963,17 so to compare the estimated number of lives saved since the inception of the vaccine with the estimated number of children harmed, you’d also have to try to extrapolate numbers of harm for those missing 27 years.

Barring such additional effort, we’re then looking at a loosely extrapolated estimate of 24,200 lives potentially saved by the measles vaccine since 1963, versus an equally if not looser estimate of 44,500 deaths potentially caused by the vaccine since 1990. Has mandated use of the MMR vaccine caused as many deaths as it prevents?

The truth is, no one knows for sure. It is not scientific to simply assume that the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risks for every individual and society as a whole without taking into account that the estimated harm from measles may have been overstated and the estimated harm from the vaccine may have been understated. Yet that’s all we get from health authorities — assumptions masquerading as “facts.”

Clearly, those who push for strict enforcement of laws requiring MMR vaccine use do not have the required scientific information to accurately make a reliable estimate of the true benefit of MMR or any other vaccine. As noted by Physicians for Informed Consent, under the heading “Is the MMR Vaccine Safer Than Measles?”:18

“A review19 of more than 60 MMR vaccine studies conducted for the Cochrane Library states, ‘The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate.’

Because permanent sequalae (aftereffects) from measles, especially in individuals with normal levels of vitamin A, are so rare,20 the level of accuracy of the research studies available is insufficient to prove that the vaccine causes less death or permanent injury than measles.”

Senator Dies From Sepsis

There are big gaps in vaccine science research and a troubling lack of information about the overall benefit of annual influenza vaccinations. Mounting evidence suggests the administration of annual flu shots, especially to all infants and children starting in the first year of life, may be causing immune system dysfunction, which could become a significant problem for children as they grow up.

New York State Senator José Peralta — an outspoken proponent of annual flu vaccinations — died November 22, 2018, at the age of 47 from sudden septic shock.21 Sepsis is a progressive disease process initiated by an aggressive, dysfunctional immune response to an infection in the bloodstream (which is why it's sometimes referred to as blood poisoning).

Symptoms of sepsis are often overlooked, even by health professionals, and without prompt treatment, the condition can be deadly, as evidenced in Peralta’s case. He had reportedly complained of “pressure behind his ears and headaches for a week or more,”22 but had largely dismissed his condition thinking it was just side effects from a recent flu shot.

His condition took a sudden turn for the worse on November 20, when he developed a fever. The following day, he had trouble breathing and became disoriented, at which point he was admitted to Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York.

Peralta died that evening, apparently from severe sepsis, a serious complication of infection for individuals whose immune systems are not functioning well, although the nature of Peralta’s infection and the precise cause of his death from sepsis apparently remains unclear.

While Peralta had recently received an influenza vaccination, research shows the flu vaccine often fails to work, and may actually weaken the immune system, making you more vulnerable to secondary infections and/or more severe disease.23,24,25 In one study,26 influenza vaccination more than quadrupled children’s risk of contracting an upper respiratory infection.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,27 the 2017-2018 seasonal influenza vaccine’s effectiveness against “influenza A and influenza B virus infection associated with medically attended acute respiratory illness” was just 36 percent, meaning there was a 64 percent chance of contracting influenza even if you got the flu shot.

Research Highlights Link Between Influenza and Severe Sepsis

Sepsis is actually one of the leading causes of influenza-related deaths. When your immune system is weak, influenza can weaken it further, allowing a secondary infection to take hold. Sepsis is typically caused by this secondary infection, not the influenza infection itself.

According to researchers, “Severe sepsis is traditionally associated with bacterial diseases … However, viruses are becoming a growing cause of severe sepsis worldwide.” As noted in the video above, some sepsis symptoms also resemble influenza, which can lead to tragedy. The video offers guidelines on how to tell the difference between the two.

Sepsis, without doubt, requires immediate medical attention, whereas most people will successfully recover from influenza within a few days to a week with bedrest and fluids. Just how influenza can lead to sepsis is a somewhat complex affair, described as follows:28 

“Regardless of the etiologic agent, the inflammatory response is highly interconnected with infection. In the initial response to an infection, severe sepsis is characterized by a proinflammatory state, while a progression to an anti-inflammatory state develops and favors secondary infections …

In the predominant proinflammatory state, Th1 cells activated by microorganisms increase transcription of proinflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α), interferon-γ (INF-γ), and interleukin-2 (IL-2).

[C]ytokines … released from endothelial cells and subsequently from macrophages can induce lymphocyte activation and infiltration at the sites of infection and will exert direct antiviral effects. Subsequently, with the shift toward an anti-inflammatory state, activated Th2 cells secrete interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-10 (IL-10).

In certain situations, T cells can become anergic, failing to proliferate and produce cytokines. Type I IFN has a potent anti-influenza virus activity; it induces transcription of several interferon stimulated genes, which in turn restrict viral replication. However, influenza virus developed several mechanisms to evade IFN response …

Viral infections such as the influenza virus can also trigger deregulation of the innate immune system with excessive cytokines release and potential harmful consequences. An abnormal immune response to influenza can lead to endothelial damage … deregulation of coagulation, and the consequent alteration of microvascular permeability, tissue edema and shock.”

Unfortunately, even when properly diagnosed, conventional treatments for sepsis often fail, and most hospitals have yet to embrace the use of intravenous (IV) vitamin C, hydrocortisone and thiamine,29 which have been shown to reduce sepsis mortality from 40 to a mere 8.5 percent.30,31

Being aware of this treatment (see below), and insisting on it should you or someone you love be at risk, could be a real lifesaver. Knowing what sepsis looks like is also crucial, as early diagnosis and treatment is crucial.

Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis

Common signs and symptoms of sepsis to watch out for include:32

  • A high fever
  • Inability to keep fluids down
  • Rapid heartbeat; rapid, shallow breathing and/or shortness of breath
  • Lethargy and/or confusion
  • Slurred speech, often resembling intoxication

Should a few or all of these be present, seek immediate medical attention to rule out sepsis. Also inform the medical staff that you suspect sepsis, as time is of the essence when it comes to treatment. As noted in the video above, hydration is of utmost importance, as damage caused by sepsis begins with fluid loss.

Familiarize Yourself With This Life-Saving Sepsis Protocol

If you or a loved one develops sepsis, whether caused by influenza or some other infection, please remember that a protocol of IV vitamin C with hydrocortisone and thiamine (vitamin B1) can be lifesaving.33 Tell your doctor and suggest it be part of the treatment — chances are, he or she might not even be aware of it.

This lifesaving sepsis treatment protocol was developed Dr. Paul Marik, a critical care doctor at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in East Virginia, and clinical use has proven it to be remarkably effective for the treatment of sepsis, reducing mortality nearly fivefold.

Marik’s retrospective before-after clinical study34,35 showed that giving patients IV vitamin C with hydrocortisone and vitamin B1 for two days reduced mortality from 40 percent down to 8.5 percent.

Importantly, the treatment has no side effects and is inexpensive, readily available and simple to administer. There is nothing to lose by trying it unless the person with sepsis has a specific genetic disorder: Use of the sepsis treatment protocol is contraindicated if a person is glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficient (a genetic disorder).36 G6PD is an enzyme your red blood cells need to maintain membrane integrity.

High-dose IV vitamin C is a strong pro-oxidant, and giving a pro-oxidant to a G6PD-deficient individual can cause their red blood cells to rupture, which could have disastrous, even fatal, consequences.

Fortunately, G6PC deficiency is relatively uncommon, and can be tested for. People of Mediterranean and African decent are at greater risk of being G6PC deficient. Worldwide, G6PD deficiency is thought to affect 400 million individuals, and in the U.S., an estimated 1 in 10 African-American males have it.37

How Does the Treatment Work?

Vitamin C is well-known for its ability to prevent and treat infectious diseases. Previous research has shown it effectively lowers proinflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein.38,39,40 Influenza,41 encephalitis and measles42 have all been successfully treated with high-dose vitamin C.

To investigate the mechanism of action for sepsis, Marik reached out to John Catravas, Ph.D., a pharmacology researcher at Old Dominion University. At Marik’s request, Catravas performed an independent lab study, which confirmed the effectiveness of the treatment. Catravas cultured endothelial cells from lung tissue and then exposed them to endotoxins found in patients with sepsis.

Interestingly, vitamin C acts like the steroid hydrocortisone, yet when either vitamin C or the steroid were administered in isolation, nothing happened. When administered together, however, the infection was successfully eradicated and the cells were restored to normal.

The addition of thiamine is also important. Not only is thiamine required for metabolism of some of the metabolites of vitamin C, research has also shown many patients with sepsis are vitamin deficient, and when thiamine is given, it reduces the risk of renal failure and mortality.

Studies have also shown thiamine can be helpful for a long list of diseases and disorders, including mitochondrial disorders,43 heart failure,44 delirium,45 thyroid fatigue and Hashimoto’s (a thyroid autoimmune disorder).46 These and other health effects may help explain why thiamine works so well in conjunction with vitamin C and hydrocortisone for sepsis. In short, the key Marik intuitively stumbled upon was the right combination of ingredients.

Dr. Craig Coopersmith, a leading sepsis researcher at Emory University School of Medicine, is currently conducting a multicenter trial to put Marik’s vitamin C protocol to the test.47 The projected completion date for this study is May 30, 2019.48

Strong Immune Function Minimizes Your Risk of All Sorts of Infections

It’s important to remember that your immune system is your first-line defense against all types of infections, be they bacterial or viral, so the most effective way to make it through flu season unscathed and avoid other infections that may turn deadly is to bolster your immune function.

While conventional health authorities claim getting an annual flu shot is the best way to ward off influenza, the medical literature suggests vitamin D optimization is a very effective strategy in helping to prevent respiratory infections of all kinds during the flu season.49,50,51 A number of studies52,53,54 have confirmed that people with higher vitamin D levels report fewer bouts of cold or flu.

A scientific review55 published 2017 concluded that people with significant vitamin D deficiency (blood levels below 10 ng/mL) can cut their risk of respiratory infection by 50 percent simply by taking a vitamin D supplement. People with higher vitamin D levels also benefited but to a lesser degree. Overall, they reduced their risk by about 10 percent, which the researchers stated was about equal to the effect of flu vaccines.

Aside from vitamin D, loading up on vitamins B1 and C may also go a long way toward keeping you healthy through the flu season and beyond. (Influenza has also been successfully treated with high-dose vitamin C.56)

Taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of a cold or flu can also be helpful, as zinc boosts immune function and plays a vital role in activating your body’s T cells (white blood cells tasked with destroying infected cells). For a list of common-sense strategies to further reduce your risk of sepsis, please see “Vitamin C — A Game Changer in Treatment of Deadly Sepsis.”

+ Sources and References