Coronavirus has infected tens of thousands of people, and killed more than 3,000, both in and outside of China (1).
Even though most cases of coronavirus are mild, and the number of people affected is a fraction of what the flu does each year, that hasn’t stopped coronavirus from triggering quarantines, stock market dips, and plenty of conspiracy theories.
As coronavirus cases continue to pop up in countries around the world, you may find yourself wondering how seriously you should take your risk of exposure, and what you can do to be proactive.
Coronavirus: The Facts
The type of coronavirus whose first case popped up on the last day of 2019, is part of a family of viruses that affect both humans and animals. This family of viruses is also responsible for conditions as simple as the common cold, and as severe as the SARS virus that affected the middle east in recent years.
This new type of coronavirus, cataloged as COVID-19, is a respiratory disease with ‘CO’ standing for corona and ‘VI standing for virus, and ‘D’ for disease (2).
You may have seen the word “novel” in reference to this type of coronavirus, and that simply means that it’s new–we’ve never seen it before.
This is mainly an issue because we don’t fully understand it’s origins yet (the most probable is an open-air market in Wuhan), and we don’t have a vaccine for this type of coronavirus, unlike what we’ve developed for more common illnesses like the flu.
Coronavirus has an incubation period of anywhere from 2 to 10 days, with most quarantines lasting for 14 days if someone is suspected of having been exposed or showing symptoms (3). An incubation period is the measurement of time it usually takes for an individual to develop symptoms for an illness.
What Does COVID-19 Do?
For about 80 percent of people who contract COVID-19, it will cause symptoms very similar to the common cold, and resolve without issue (2).
Data from China tells us right now that about 14 percent of cases progress to severe, with some people having difficulty breathing, and about five percent of cases are critical with patients requiring assistance breathing (2).
The mortality rate–or the number of cases that result in death–is between two and four percent in China, but less than one percent in the rest of the world (2). This could be for several reasons, one of them being access to basic medical care as much of China doesn’t have the healthcare resources in many of its provinces to undertake an outbreak such as this.
Once the virus enters the body, it binds to certain cells in the lungs that normally prevent the buildup of mucus and other debris within the lungs. This can cause some difficulty breathing, and this phase of COVID-19 usually lasts about a week.
Your immune system will mount an appropriate response to the invaders and begin to kill off the virus cells. You develop a fever, which creates a hostile environment for the virus, and you’ll gradually get rid of mucus and buildup by coughing, and through your nose running. This is a completely normal immune response.
For some, and especially those with a compromised immune function, this stage can result in an altered response, with the immune system not only attacking the virus cells, but the body’s own cells as well.
This can result in further difficulty breathing, and it can progress to a severe respiratory illness requiring hospitalization at this point.
The Flu vs. Coronavirus
To put COVID-19 in perspective, the flu infects 45 million people per year, resulting in as many as 61,000 deaths–and that’s just what’s on record (4). The flu is also responsible for as many as 810,000 hospitalizations annually. COVID-19 is nowhere near that scale.
So before you allow yourself to play into the panic happening with the rest of the news media, it’s important to see the bigger picture. We do have vaccines for the flu, although not for all of its various strains, and are generally more familiar with the flu–so it scares the general public a little less.
As of March 5th, 2020, 11 people in the U.S. have passed away from COVID-19, and all have had pre-existing health conditions that complicated their condition.
How COVID-19 Spreads
This coronavirus spreads mainly by person-to-person contact when in range of airborne particles resulting from coughing or sneezing. Coronaviruses can also live on surfaces for up to nine days, and cause an infection resulting from coming into contact with a contaminated surface, and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth. The CDC believes this method is less common than person-to-person contact, though (3).
To be safe, disinfect surfaces, and wash hands often.
Precautions to take
To avoid getting sick, there are some easy rules to follow. These guidelines range from immune-boosting supplements to actions to incorporation to reduce risk and protect others around you.
Get consistent and adequate rest.
Healthy immune function is highly dependent on sleep, and compromising sleep can leave you vulnerable to not only diseases like coronavirus, but bacterial infections as well.
Stay home if you’re sick.
Staying home when you’re unwell is just as much for your benefit as those around you. You never know who else may be immune-compromised, or recovering from another cold or flu that can make them susceptible to the germs you may be spreading when you’re out and about.
Take care to cover coughs and sneezes.
This seems like a no-brainer, but many people neglect to realize that droplets of mucus can spread up to 15 feet when we cough or sneeze. Coughing into your elbow or arm is a good alternative to covering with your hands, as we usually go on to touch other things with our hands and could still be spreading germs.
Wash your hands. Keep them away from your face.
Often, the most effective ways to keep well are simple mechanical actions we’re all capable of doing. Coronavirus can be neutralized through effective hand-washing, and by alcohol-based hand sanitizers with greater than 60 percent alcohol content (5). Hand washing should be the go-to though, with hand sanitizer use being a last resort where water isn’t available.
Avoid travel to restricted regions.
Currently, the CDC has listed China, Iran, Japan, Italy, and South Korea as travel destinations where community transmission of COVID-19 is active. Does that mean you’ll absolutely contract it if you go there? No. But while traveling, and especially in international airports, it’s a great idea to follow these precautions to the letter (6).
Should I Get a Mask?
Media and news coverage shows many people wearing masks to cover their face and nose. Without a proper explanation for this action, it may lead many to believe this is a precaution we should take to avoid becoming sick.
Wearing a mask, however, is done to protect others around you when YOU may be sick. It’s a courtesy to others when out in the community so as not to spread droplets that could contain germs.
Maximum Immune Support
To maximize immune support, incorporate some of these remedies to make sure your immune system is in top shape.
An herbal remedy of a species of South African geranium, umcka plays a role in the production of a specialized protein, called cytokines, that may protect the body’s cells from viral infection (7).
Supplement with 1.5 mL 1-3 times daily
The vitamin that’s really more of a hormone, deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased susceptibility to infection.
Supplement with 1000 to 5000 IUs daily.
A traditional Chinese medical herb, astragalus modulates immune response, and supports a healthy expression of proteins involved in immune function.
Supplement with 1 gram daily.
Other immune-supportive nutrients are zinc, vitamin C, and elderberry.
The Bigger Picture
Illness can be scary. But much of what causes panic is a lack of information and understanding. The most important thing to do is keep a level head and evaluate data as it becomes available. The best thing we can all do is be prudent with our actions to avoid spreading any germs, and to make smart decisions to build a robust immune system.
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