We at Living Well Dallas Functional Medicine Center want you to be as healthy and well-informed as you can be during this trying time.
The Latest on Coronavirus and What you Can Do:
The media has created coronavirus hysteria, and many of you have asked us how worried you should really be. The world leaders are asking people to take precautions to slow the peaking of spread of the illness over the next two weeks. Many of us are not sure whether to panic or stay calm or to trust what we see on T.V. or read on the internet.
Let’s fight fear with FACTS!
Scientists and researchers across the world are scrambling to learn more about COVID-19 and create prevention strategies, and possible treatments. We are learning more every day. So, let me share with you some facts gathered from trusted resources (found below) so that we can all be rationally prepared for a COVID-19 pandemic if it occurs
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 was first reported as an outbreak in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019. It has since become an epidemic, and may be set to become a pandemic.
What do these words really mean?
Let’s clarify the terminology. An outbreak occurs when a disease happens in greater numbers than expected in a community. An epidemic is an outbreak that spreads rapidly to many people. A pandemic is an epidemic that has become widespread across several countries or continents.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that are named for the points on their surface that look like crowns (“corona” in Latin means crown). COVID-19 is the name of the respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. You may also see it referred to as 2019-nCoV, or SARS-coV-, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus).
Coronaviruses can cause mild symptoms like the common cold or flu and it can be more severe – like we’ve seen with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) or MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
Who is at the most risk of complications if they get COVID-19?
Certain populations do seem to be more at risk for severe infection and death. Increasing age seems to be the most critical factor. The Chinese CCDC reported on February 17, 2020, that the fatality rate of patients over 80 years of age was estimated to be 14.8% and the risk of death in people under 50 appears to be unlikely, and the mortality rate of 40-49-year-olds estimated to be 0.4% and 0.2% for patients 10-39 years of age. There have been no reported deaths in children 0-9 years old.
Having a chronic, pre-existing medical condition like cardiovascular disease may make you at a significantly increased risk of infection and death (7), and those on chemotherapy or immuno-suppressive drugs for autoimmune conditions such as Humira, DMARDS, Embrel, Remicade, etc. may also be at a greater risk of infections.
What does that mean?
- COVID-19, like the influenza virus, is most risky for the elderly and those with underlying chronic medical conditions where the immune system is suppressed.
- However, unlike the flu, children so far appear to be relatively protected.
- Those in chemotherapy are at a greater risk of infection, and
- Those who take Biologics and immune-suppressive drugs may also be at a greater risk.
- The reason for quarantine is to reduce the spread of the illness and the risk to at risk populations. For most adults, the risk of severe illness is limited.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
What is important to remember is that the vast majority of people infected appear to have mild infections – with mild cold-like symptoms and fever. Even more so, many who get the virus may have no symptoms at all. As noted above, there are a few case reports of asymptomatic carriers. However, most people who contract COVID-19 do seem to develop some mild symptoms.
Reported symptoms include:
- Uncomplicated upper respiratory symptoms (cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, fatigue, headache, muscle aches)
- Fever (which may not be present in the very old, or very young or immunocompromised)
- Breathing difficulty
- Mild pneumonia
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
- Severe pneumonia (the severe pneumonia caused by COVID-19 is now named severe acute respiratory infection (SARI))
- Sepsis and Septic shock
How do you test for COVID-19?
COVID-19 is detected by testing nasopharyngeal swabs (nose swab), oropharyngeal swabs (a throat swab), and sputum for genes of COVID-19 by polymerase chain testing (PCR). In the U.S., test kits are NOT available currently through doctor’s offices, community clinics, or many hospitals. We do not have kits to test for COVID-19.
However, Quest and Labcorp have recently started testing. The CDC has begun rolling out test kits to state public health departments, and hospital labs and commercial labs like Quest and Labcorp have already rolled out their testing. But, there are still not enough test kits to test every patient with fever and upper respiratory symptoms.
Currently, the recommendations are to test patients with fever and respiratory symptoms (cough or shortness of breath) who have had close contact with:
- a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19; or
- history of travel from affected countries with 4 days of symptoms; OR
- those with severe acute lower respiratory illness that requires hospitalization and do not have another diagnosis like Influenza.
The CDC also recommends that doctors test for other respiratory pathogens – like the flu! Because we’re still in the middle of flu season, and …
If you have cold or flu symptoms,
there is a good chance that your child has a cold or the flu!
Do NOT rush to the doctor’s office or E.R. to get tested at the first sign of fever or cough unless your health is declining, and you fit the above criteria and you need urgent medical attention. Doctors and E.R.s have minimal capability to test for COVID-19, and going unnecessarily to the doctor’s office or emergency department may unwittingly expose you to COVID-19 or other infections and likewise may expose other people to whatever illness you may have.
How many people actually have COVID-19?
The number of COVID-19 cases are increasing every day – these numbers are a moving target. As of March 11, 2020, the WHO has officially announced that COVID-19 is a global pandemic.
As of March 13, 2020, there have been at least 127,863 global confirmed cases, 80,932 of which are in mainland China. The rate of new cases in China is slowing while the rate in other countries have been increasing. Cases have risen in Italy, Iran, and South Korea, at 12462, 10075, 7869 cases respectively. As of March 15, 2020, there are 1,629 cases of confirmed COVID-19 in the U.S.
The infection rate from exposure to COVID-19 from within the reporting countries is growing at a far stronger rate than infection from exposure due to travel from another country. There is an increasing number of infected persons with no history of international travel or close contact with a patient with known COVID-19 infection.
Spreading COVID-19 through our domestic community is becoming an increasing concern in the U.S. and other countries, and we need to have more effective strategies for prevention, early detection, containment, and treatment than just closing our borders.
If you must check numbers, the global Coronavirus COVID-19 tracker from Johns Hopkins, which integrates data from these sources: WHO, CDC, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and China’s National Health Commission) may be the most accurate for daily numbers.
How do you treat COVID-19?
There are currently NO specific antiviral medications to treat COVID-19. Tamiflu will not work!
Treatment is supportive rest, fluids, oxygen, and more intensive care if needed. The manufacture and testing of new pharmaceutical drugs is likely several months to over a year in coming.
In the meantime, are there existing natural treatments that might work? We just don’t know.
How can you protect your family from COVID-19?
Remember, the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 appear to have mild symptoms of illness. However, we know from other viral illnesses that there are ways we can reduce our susceptibilities to serious illness.
Infection + Susceptibility = Symptoms
If we can reduce our susceptibility to serious illness, our likelihood of developing mild symptoms if we are infected is much higher.
There are commonsense measures to protect yourself from viruses and COVID-19 that you should be practicing regularly, regardless of whatever virus is circulating at the moment.
Here are other commonsense measures to protect yourself and prevent the spread of illness, including:
- Wash hands frequently, Washing your hands with warm soap and water for at least 30 seconds. A study found that washing hands, even with plain running water without soap, was more effective than hand sanitizers at killing the Influenza A virus! (31)
- Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.If you don’t have access to soap, add water to an alcohol-based hand sanitizer would bethe next best thing. But it has to be at least 60% alcohol – this is the percentage found to kill coronavirus in studies (36).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth!Do your best to keep those fingers away!
- Stay home when you’re sick unless you need urgent medical attention. You may be increasing your potential exposures to COVID-19 if you don’t have it, or exposing others unnecessarily if you do have it.
- Cover your cough with your elbow or tissues. And if you use a tissue, immediately throw it away and wash your hands.
- Keep your distance.Try to avoid large crowds and anyone who is obviously sick with fever and/or respiratory symptoms.
- Nasal Rinse.While we do not know if nasal irrigation makes a difference for prevention of COVID-19, irrigating your nasal passages with saline or Xlear nasal spray may flush virus from the nasal mucus membrane. Rinse at the beginning and end of every day and after any potential exposure (work, school, playgroups, plane travel, etc). Xlear is a saline nasal spray with xylitol and grapefruit seed extract, both of which have antimicrobial properties.
- Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.They are full of antioxidants that will quench the free radicals that weaken our immune system. Fre radicals are responsible for making us feel sick when we catch a cold or flu. Each color provides new and different antioxidant power – so be sure to eat a rainbow every day.
- Stay well-hydrated.Stick to water, herbal teas, and coconut water. No soda or sugary drinks, please! To get enough, divide your body weight (in pounds) in half and drink that number in ounces!
- Load up on foods and spices with antiviral properties. These include raw garlic, oregano, ginger, coconut oil, walnut, pomegranate, green tea, apple cider vinegar, and medicinal mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, reishi, cordyceps, turkeytail).
- Eat fermented foods. The probiotics contained in fermented foods have tremendous immune-boosting powers – try pickles (try “real” pickles without added vinegar-like Bubbies), sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha.
- Avoid simple sugars and processed/junk food.White blood cells are our “army” cells that fight off germs. Did you know that you have a lowered immune system within 30 minutes of eating simple sugars (like refined sugar, and fructose), and that causes a 50% reduction in your white blood cells’ abilities to kill germ? (35). Keeping blood sugar levels healthy has been shown to improve immune system activity.
- Get fresh air and moderate daily exercise.Moderate exercise can boost the production of immune cells called macrophages that “gobble up” bacteria and viruses. However, overly intense exercise can temporarily decrease immune function – so don’t overdo it!
- Get adequate sleep.Getting a good nights sleep actually increases the number of your white blood cells.
- Minimize stress.Stress, whether emotional or physical creates physiological stress in our bodies that lowers our immune defenses. Stress has been shown to lower our white blood cells’ abilities to kill germs, and creates more inflammation.
Keep your immune system as strong as possible.
Consider supporting your immune system with the following nutritional supplements to give your immune defense a boost:
- Vitamin C– Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that assists our ability to ward off and deal with an infection. Liposomal Vitamin C absorbs quickly through the membranes in the mouth. Take a teaspoon and hold it and swish it through the mouth for one minute, then swallow.
- Vitamin D3– Vitamin D is immunomodulatory. Studies have shown that people supplemented with adequate levels of Vitamin D during the cold and flu season had significantly lower rates of flu.
- Zinc– Zinc is required for the normal functioning of white blood cells and can improve our ability to ward off infection.
- Fish oil– Omega-3 essential fatty acids have a host of immune boosting benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties.
- Probiotics– Particular strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been shown to dramatic reduction in fever and respiratory symptoms in children who took a probiotic in one study.
If you do get sick…
If you DO start to feel fever and cough symptoms, remember – it is very likely the common cold, the flu (we are still in flu season), or one of the other more commonly circulating viruses and NOT COVID-19 – so DON’T PANIC.
Moreover, even if it is COVID-19, remember that most people appear to have MILD symptoms.