With each passing day, we’re learning more and more about this novel coronavirus—named SARS-CoV-2—which causes Covid-19. It’s novel because while it’s from a well-known family of respiratory viruses, this particular one is new to humans as a pathogen (disease causing agent).
Keeping up with developments is a daily if not hourly task. On February 29, a Washington State man in his 50s with underlying health problems died of Covid-19, the first reported US death. The state’s governor declared a state of emergency as more than 50 nursing home residents experienced respiratory symptoms or pneumonia and were being tested for the virus.
Also this weekend there was a new case in Chicago, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Cook County Department of Public Health.
Viruses are nothing new in themselves, appearing, give or take, 1.5 billion years before we did. But viruses need living cells to thrive and from birth we’re invaded by dozens of virus strains, each one triggering a unique response from our immune systems in an attempt to inactivate it. Evidence of this immunity can be measured by the presence of antibodies in our blood.
The reason you get fewer colds as you age is because your immune library becomes more extensive and diverse with each passing decade. This library serves you well until a new virus comes along, like this novel coronavirus, and catches your body unaware.
Covid-19 in perspective
Viral respiratory illnesses run the gamut from the annoying (a 24-hour cold) to the debilitating (our annual flu epidemics) to the seriously lethal (HIV and Ebola). The most horrifying flu epidemic in modern times was the Spanish influenza of 1918, which infected 50% of the planet and was responsible for the deaths of 50 million people around the world, including 750,000 Americans.
Back then, there were no antibiotics and the most dangerous complication, bacterial pneumonia, couldn’t be treated (as it can today). When it comes to antiviral therapy, however, we’re as helpless with Covid-19 as we were with the Spanish flu.
In terms of transmissibility, Covid-19 is an all-star, likely because infected people with no symptoms spread it before they feel ill. In other words, you might not have symptoms for weeks but you can still transmit the virus. We know it spreads very quickly, and now, with the first known cases on the West Coast in people who did not visit a seriously affected area, like mainland China, we’re not even sure how it’s being transmitted.
Covid-19 can survive on inanimate objects for more than a week. Thus, one of the recently diagnosed people on the West Coast may have acquired it by opening a package shipped from overseas that had been sealed by a virus carrier who had been well while at work but is now sick at home or dying in a hospital bed.
How serious is it?
The virus has infected about 87,000 people and killed roughly 2,900, mostly in China. Remember that these counts are squishy, since we have no way to verify the numbers China has released. (Click here for the Johns Hopkins Covid-19 global tracker, which changes frequently.)
The virus’s main fatalities have been among the elderly, especially those with chronic illnesses. Smokers, too, are apparently at higher risk, with a focus on male smokers, though this may be because in China more men smoke than women. The death rate from Covid-19 is just under 3%, which is low when compared with the Spanish flu (20%) or the horror show of Ebola, which killed 90% of those infected.
As I write on March 1, it’s increasingly difficult to predict how deadly the virus will be. This morning the New York Times published a round-up piece that reported the new virus “appears to be between seven and 20 times more deadly than seasonal flu, which on average kills between 300,000 and 650,000 people globally each year.” (Click here to read the whole story.)
However, remember (and it may seem counterintuitive) that the greater the number of mild cases of Covid-19 that go undiagnosed, the lower the actual death rate.
In a typical flu epidemic, the kind that shows up between November and January every year, the death rate is about 1% to 2%, again among the elderly and chronically ill.
When compared to more recent pandemics, Covid-19 is spreading faster than SARS, MERS (middle eastern respiratory syndrome), and Ebola, but in terms of danger to your personal longevity, if you do get infected with Covid-19, you’ll likely feel terrible for a couple of weeks but if you’re reasonably healthy the odds are very much in your favor for a full recovery.
The same rules apply
There’s no significant Covid-19 vaccine or treatment yet, but the same rules we use to avoid contagious respiratory infections and support the immune system apply:
—Eat nutrition-packed foods. Hidden vitamin deficiencies will render you more susceptible to any infection. We measure vitamin levels frequently and I’m astonished at some of the pathetic amounts I see in patients who otherwise consider themselves healthy.
—Keep a lid on stress, high levels of which will bollix up your immune system.
—Get enough sleep. It’s one of your body’s essential repair and restore mechanisms.
—Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water, especially if you’re out in public and touch things like public transport rails, keyboards, health club equipment, doorknobs, etc.
—Don’t touch your face because this will transmit whatever’s on your hands to the mucous membranes in your eyes, nose, and mouth. The average person touches her face 3,000 times a day. Practice not doing it!
—If you get sick, stay home and rest. Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze/cough or use your elbow to block the droplet spray. Have some nice hot chicken soup and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, tea, and other sugar-free liquids. Take over-the-counter meds for symptoms. Since you’re not sick now, why not stock up on these items so you’ll have them just in case, and also to share. Better yet, make some chicken broth and freeze it. It’s an extraordinary treat, regardless of your health status.
—In public places, avoid crowds. If you’re sick and must be out in public (such as to go to the doctor), wear a face mask, although they’re rapidly disappearing and unscrupulous sellers are charging vastly inflated prices online. And please remember: face masks are not intended to protect healthy you, but to keep a sick you from infecting others.
If you’re reading the news about this as obsessively as I am, you’ll see reference to an “unnamed mystery drug,” with shortages now being reported. A perfect idea for conspiracy theorists, the drug is most likely Plaquenil (hydrochloroquine), a malaria med often used to treat autoimmune disease. Plaquenil does have unique virus-killing properties that may be very useful for Covid-19. It’s a very safe medication with few side effects and surprisingly inexpensive.
What else can I do?
We know that high levels of certain vitamins and minerals amplify the efficiency of your immune system. It has now been 50 years since Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling wrote “Vitamin C and the Common Cold,” and yes, his advice still holds. So take your C, three grams (1000 milligrams) spread across the day.
In addition, pick up some Carlson ACES + zinc from any drugstore and take twice daily.
These will also support your immune system and are available through our Apothecary:
—Five Defenders Mushroom Blend, twice daily.
—Thorne Vitamin D, 5,000 IU daily.
—Buffered Vitamin C, 3.000 mg daily.
—Vitamin E, 400 IU daily.
—Zinc picolinate, 25 mg twice daily.
—Transfer Factor Multi Immune twice daily.
These can be discontinued once the risk of infection goes down.
Also, you can increase (or at least bring to healthy levels) all the other elements that maximize your resistance to viral infections by scheduling at WholeHealth Chicago one or more Immune Boost IV treatments. These take about 30 minutes and include high doses of vitamin C, several B vitamins and added B-6, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium.
Vitamin D is extremely important. We can measure your D levels and add an intramuscular injection (D cannot be given via IV). Add-on nutritional supplements to take by mouth are selenium and the mushroom blend called 5 Defenders.
If the US Covid-19 numbers start increasing as predicted by the CDC, or cases start appearing throughout the Midwest, schedule two or three of these infusions to protect yourself.
Politics and the virus
Every time I write anything vaguely political, I always manage to receive some singularly unpleasant comments advising me to stay in my lane and keep my political opinions to myself.
Sorry, but if you’re unhappy with what follows, just click the unsubscribe button and go off to lick your (hopefully uninfected) wounds. But really, folks, for our president to blame immigrants and Democrats for a viral pandemic is truly irresponsible.
In the past three years under the Trump administration, the number of uninsured people in the US has increased by seven million, mainly women, children, and the poor. For the middle class, insurance rates have skyrocketed and patients are avoiding doctor visits because of high deductibles.
This means that if the Covid-19 numbers increase, the government will have cynically taken away even more vital access to health care.
At the same time, Trump has referred to the virus as a hoax that he actually blames on Democratic immigration policies, saying that the pandemic was engineered to lower the stock market, weaken the economy, and lessen his chances for re-election. This is from the Guardian.
In addition, the most respected government expert on viruses and immunology, Anthony Fauci, MD, who has been keeping physicians current on Covid-19, was according to some reports silenced by Trump, who wants all Covid-19 announcements cleared through Vice President Mike Pence and Trump loyalist Jeff Kudlow. Dr. Fauci refutes this and comments on the possibility of the coming spring calming the virus in this report.
To place Pence in charge of the Covid-19 crisis is cynical beyond belief. As governor of Indiana, he moved very slowly (some say deliberately) when it came to protecting Hoosiers from HIV, reluctant to distribute clean needles and unsupportive of steps to keep the LGBT community safe. He is described as “science adverse.”
I’m telling you all this so that you don’t rely on the federal government for help during the Covid-19 pandemic. But do try to stay current on developments, checking information from around the world. Here’s a link to the CDC updates.
WholeHealth Chicago patients who worry they’re infected with Covid-19 can contact their practitioner through the patient portal.
And remember: much of the prevention for this virus is self-care.
David Edelberg, MD