Coronavirus, now renamed Covid-19, is a virus that has gone viral, not just physiologically but through the internet and other news media.
Internet coverage pointed first to snakes or bats from the Wuhan seafood and wild animal market, then to the pangolin, an endangered species illegally trafficked for Chinese medicine, and to speculation re the Wuhan virology laboratory.
Add the usually elaborate conspiracy theories, and the cold facts remain: the harsh reality of the danger of the virus has generated widespread fear.
At this point, given the widespread distrust of the media and governments foreign and domestic, it’s virtually impossible to ascertain the facts about the virus.
What we know is that Covid-19 is a corona virus, named after the virus’s crown-like appearance. There are at least seven known types of corona viruses that impact humans. Approximately 15% to 30% of common colds are associated with corona viruses OC43 and 229E. And various corona viruses are responsible for some cases of viral pneumonia. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) are also corona virus illnesses.
We know that it is virtually impossible to contain the virus. The apparent period of contagion is up to 12.5 days or more, before symptoms appear.
Transmission is through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, and this is why the virus is generally transmitted by close personal contact, rather than from touching a surface and then touching mouth, nose, or eyes.
The virus can, however, live on metal, glass or plastic surfaces for up to nine days, though the average is 4 to 5 days, versus 48 hours for the common flu virus and two hours for the measles.
Low temperatures and high humidity increase the lifespan. Antibodies against the virus don’t last long; thus we can be affected again in as little as four months.
How are we to protect ourselves?
You will obviously want to avoid contact with symptomatic persons, as with any virus.
Insist that your loved ones and coworkers wear masks when symptomatic.
Public health sites emphasize frequent hand washing. They caution that none of us wash our hands properly. Apparently, the water temperature doesn’t make much difference. The best advice is to wash with water, then soap, scrubbing for 20 seconds, then rinse. Or as the World Health Organization advises, use alcohol hand wipes.
In addition, gargling with saltwater at the end of the day, or using a saline nasal rinse can be preventive, as well as useful during treatment.
Several disinfectants have been shown to inactivate coronavirus. These are disinfectants with 62% to 71% ethanol alcohol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach).
Masks, while useful in preventing the spread of the virus, are not all that effective in protecting ourselves.
Facemasks are typically loose-fitting, meaning that particles can escape. Face masks generally block only larger particles and droplets, making them more effective as protection from environmental pollution than from tiny viral particles.
If you do use a mask, N-95 masks, used by health care workers, form a tighter seal and can filter smaller airborne particles. Follow the link to a government publication for advice on using masks.
There’s certainly ample cause to be concerned about a major new virus wreaking havoc around the world and causing a number of deaths.
But, to put the fear in perspective, 15 million Americans have been affected by the common flu virus this year, and there have thus far been 8200 American deaths in the 2019-2020 flu epidemic.
The death toll from Covid-19, at the time of this writing, was around 2500 worldwide, with the numbers of people affected unknown, but less than a million. This was written in February, and if our worst fears are realized, these figures could be exponentially greater by the time you read this.
PREVENTION AND DEFENSE
In addition to avoiding the virus and protecting yourself from exposure, you can support your immune system to be less susceptible to this and other viruses.
Receptivity to Covid-19
With Covid-19, as with all other viruses and micro-organisms, there are two major factors that contribute to contracting a virus and being sickened by it. The first is the virulence of the organism. The second is the receptivity of the host.
Covid-19 is more virulent than the common flu virus, as are the SARS and MERS viruses. Though the numbers of people affected and deaths reported are thus far fewer, the percentage of deaths is higher than with the common flu virus. In addition to avoiding the virus if and when possible, we can each work to optimize our bodily defenses such that we become less receptive to the virus.
Lifestyle factors can raise our resistance to viruses.
- Adequate sleep and hydration are a must.
- Eliminating sugar and trans and rancid fats from the diet is a basic dietary step. Children do not become sick after Halloween from being outside in the cold, but from upping their consumption of sugar. Sugar (glucose, fructose, honey) can reduce the body’s ability to fight infection for up to 5 hours past consumption – the virus-fighting white blood cells essentially become comatose. Trans and rancid fats disrupt cellular membranes and create inflammation, the tissues becoming more susceptible to assault.
When we consider those who get sick more frequently and stay sick longer, we look at a few basic parameters.
Anemia is one of the culprits, whether from iron deficiency, or vitamin B12 or folate deficiency.
Low thyroid is another culprit (and should be measured not just with TSH, but with free T4 and free T3 values as well).
Adrenal stress (which can be measured on a salivary Adrenal Stress Index test) depletes Immunoglobulin G, which is the first line of defense of every mucus membrane in the body.
Low vitamin D is a nutrient condition correlated with receptivity to respiratory ailments. (While the conventional range for 25 hydroxy vitamin D is between 20 and 100, functional medicine practitioners consider the optimal range to be between 60 and 80).
In addition to optimizing all of the above, there are many helpful supplements for those who fall prey to illness.
- High-dose, short-term vitamin A (never in pregnancy or in liver disease) gives the immune system a tremendous boost, and helps heal mucus membranes.
- Thymic proteins enhance the function of the thymus gland. IgG can be promoted with l glutamine, gamma linolenic acid, or specialized formulas.
- Antimicrobial botanical formulas, monolaurin products, liposomal C, colloidal silver, and iodine-based formulas all have antiviral effects. Essential oils such as oregano oil are both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial.
- Several homeopathic formulations have proven useful. (Our office recommends GunaFlu, both as a preventive and as a treatment.)
- When the lungs are involved, we find Bamboo Extract and Usnea to be particularly helpful.
- High-potency bromelain is anti-inflammatory, thins the mucus, and helps prevent opportunistic bacterial adherence to mucus membranes.
- Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and mucolytic foods such as garlic, ginger, cayenne, and horseradish are a must. (Dr. Marcel and I always opt for hot-and-sour soup).
- Beyond oral nutrients and botanicals, many of us choose immune boosting I.V. formulas high in vitamin C when we are going into a stressful situation or potentially contaminated environments such as urgent care centers, hospitals, or airplanes, or when we have contracted a virus.
- An additional therapy to consider is the use of infrared sauna. Viruses don’t like high heat, and we’ve baked away many a virus in infrared saunas. In naturopathic medical school, we treated viruses with supervised fever treatments and hot bath immersion.
All of which is to say that there are many ways to reduce your susceptibility, even to this virus, and natural medicine has very useful tools to help weaken the virus and its effect on your body.
While some of the products mentioned in this article are small suppliers, and are available only in our office, many of the products referenced can be obtained through Fullscript, a main dispensary we use. Register and go to Favorites, scroll down to Viral Support, and you’ll be able to order.
For personalized recommendations, please either schedule a phone consult or an in-person appointment. Be well!
For information about the services we offer at Pacific Naturopathic, please give us a call at 650-961-1660, or use the convenient Contact Form to get in touch. Thank you!
To learn about Dr. Connie’s work, follow the link to her Naturopathic Health Consultations website.