Seems like only yesterday, though actually it was 2003, that a viral infection called SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) meandered around the world after starting at a live animal market China.
For those affected, what first appeared to be an especially bad cold quickly became something ominous, progressing to a potentially fatal pneumonia. Ultimately there were 8,098 cases of SARS around the world with 774 deaths. This was a pandemic, a worldwide infection.
Fortunately, medical communities cooperated with each other after some initial accusations that the Chinese were hiding data. Infected people were isolated and whole populations were taught techniques to keep them from spreading it, including the use of surgical masks and safe coughing techniques. Then, like most epidemics, the numbers started dwindling and everyone breathed a sigh of relief without first having their air filtered through a mask.
The villain of SARS was found to be a coronavirus—this new Wuhan virus is also a coronavirus–and there are lots of variations on this particular rascal, most of which are annoying rather than dangerous.
Four coronaviruses, viral cousins so to speak, are responsible for 10 to 30 percent of our upper respiratory infections. Viral colds aren’t curable, of course. Everyone should know this by now, even though people still sit patiently in waiting rooms hoping that their particular cold can be killed by an antibiotic.
Instead of trying to kill off a respiratory virus, trust your immune system. There are a lot of ways to reduce your susceptibility to all forms of coronaviruses, including the Wuhan virus. I’ll cover them below.
After the SARS epidemic of 2003, another SARS-like coronavirus reared its head in 2012, causing respiratory illness with the added unpleasantries of gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea). Ultimately, 2,494 people were infected and 858 died of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
If you missed hearing about it, that might be because most cases were limited to Saudi Arabia. Only two cases were ever diagnosed in the US, both originating in Saudi citizens traveling here.
By 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was keeping a watchful eye out for clusters of infection. On December 31, 2019, there were reported cases of a severe pneumonia in Wuhan, China, that centered on a large open-air fish market with many caged live animals of diverse species, the very same setting as for SARS.
Although the Wuhan virus spreads quickly, in these early days it does not seem as lethal as SARS or MERS. We do know that it spreads by human-to-human contact because healthcare workers treating Wuhan patients have developed the illness themselves. Last week, a physician died from the virus.
Contagion as entertainment
For its scientific accuracy, watch the 2011 movie “Contagion,” starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon. It’s an excellent and frightening suspense-filled drama that tells the story of a SARS-like epidemic.
The director, Steve Soderbergh, had medical advisors from the WHO and the film garnered positive reviews from infectious disease specialists worldwide.
One comment worth relating about the movie: we can now make vaccines much faster than conveyed in the film and in fact immunologists are developing vaccines against the Wuhan virus as you read this.
In the meantime what should you do?
Since no known antiviral can kill off coronaviruses, you need to rely on your immune system to protect you. I know this is tedious and you’ve heard it all before, but your immune system will definitely work better if you:
–Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
–Maintain a healthy weight.
–Drink only in moderation, if at all.
–Get adequate sleep.
–Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
–Keep stress levels under control.
–Avoid touching stuff that everybody else is touching such as grocery cart handles and airline tray tables and arm rests. Wipe them down with isopropyl alcohol. Clean your phone and other devices regularly too.
I would avoid air travel to China, especially to areas with clusters of the virus, but if you must travel there wear a surgical mask.
Click here for a New York Times map that tracks patients, deaths, and locations for the Wuhan coronavirus.
In addition, there are two nutritional supplements I recommend while this epidemic is going on. The two best immune stimulants are Transfer Factor Multi-Immune and Five Defenders. Both are mushroom blends that raise your NK (natural killer) viral defense system. Get one or the other (both not needed) and take one capsule twice daily.
Lastly, we’ve amplified our Immune Boost IV for the Wuhan situation. It’s a bouillabaisse of vitamins and antioxidants and is a good choice if you think you’re especially at risk.
To schedule, call and make an appointment with IV nurse Janet, specifically requesting the Immune Boost IV so she can have it ready when you arrive.
David Edelberg, MD