Many of my patients have asked me for a quick synopsis of my recommendations to minimize contracting coronavirus. I hope you find this useful. Stay safe!
Taking the world by storm, the coronavirus has proved to be a potent threat. It is difficult to estimate how many people have been infected and how many people have died. The current international numbers are over 145,000 infections and about 5,400 deaths for a death rate of about 3.7%. There are similar numbers internationally in China and in Italy. In contrast, the death rate from influenza is about 0.1% – which accounts for an annual US death rate of about 30,000 people. Various algorithms suggest the number of deaths in the US from coronavirus could range from 200,000 to 2,000,000 without imposing restrictions to minimize spread.
These estimates of numbers are suspect, as there are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infected people who have not been tested – so the death rate could be far less than the above calculations. Current estimates are that asymptomatic carriers represent about 1% of those infected, so it’s almost irrelevant to our evaluation. The larger issue is that many people have the common minor symptoms of low-grade fever and a dry cough – but they haven’t been tested.
In the US, testing has until recently only been performed by the CDC. Last week, state health departments began testing upon a physician’s directive those who are significantly ill. Testing through commercial labs such as Quest is just beginning but remains very limited. Concern (the “worried well”) is not a criterion for evaluation. Testing kits remain in short supply, so there are likely many people with minor symptoms who are not being identified. This contributes to underestimation of people affected and overestimation of risk of death. This pool of infected people may also serve as a nidus for further spread of disease.
All is not doom and gloom. About 80% of people infected have a minor illness. About 1% have no symptoms at all – but with expanded testing this number may be substantially higher. Severe symptoms requiring hospitalization have mostly been reported in all ages. More severe disease is found in higher risk populations, including people 60 years old and greater as well as those who have other pre-existing health conditions, especially involving the lungs and heart.
How is coronavirus spread?
The virus is spread primarily from person to person. It is shed mostly through the respiratory tract in the form of droplet nuclei. These form with respiratory secretions and are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These are relatively large, heavy particles and quickly sink from the air and drop down. We estimate that the zone of infectious particles is about six feet from the source. Distance is your friend.
The virus can also be spread by touching surfaces that contain viral particles. Unfortunately, the viral particles descend downward onto the nearest inanimate surface where they remain infectious for at least two days, per current expert opinion. Other types of coronaviruses can remain infectious for up to nine days. I believe we do not yet know the absolute time frame of infectivity.
The virus must make its way to your face mucous membranes (that’s your nose and mouth, and possibly your eyes) in order to infect you. Even if you don’t breathe in someone’s recently released droplet nuclei, you can infect yourself when you touch a surface where the virus resides and then touch your face. How often do we touch our faces? Yes – someone has studied that. About 90 times per day. Take home message: DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE. And, don’t pick your nose.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Airborne spread is not believed to be a major driver of transmission. Their analysis of data from China finds that of the strains of the coronavirus tested, 99.9% are similar, meaning that the virus is not significantly mutating. [That means it will be susceptible to vaccines]. And most cases that have spread from person to person are within hospitals, jails or households, which implies close contact is often required for the virus to spread between people. In one preliminary study from the province of Guangdong, people who shared the same household as someone with COVID-19 had 3–10% chance of being infected.
The incubation period for COVID-19 (i.e. the time between exposure to the virus and onset of symptoms) is currently estimated at between two and 14 days. At this stage, we know that the virus can be transmitted when those infected show (flu-like) symptoms.”
The median age of people infected is 51 years old. Interestingly, this virus seems to attack mostly older people and not the young. This is different from the flu which attacks the young and the old, as well as immune-compromised people including pregnant women. Per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, preliminary data suggest that pregnant women are not at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus. Thankfully, babies born to infected women so far have been disease free and healthy, though this information needs to be confirmed with more experience.
None yet. The standard approach to developing a vaccine takes over two years. With newer technologies, there is hope that a molecular vaccine can be designed in the lab based on the three-dimensional configuration of viral particles over the course of a few months. Many pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop such a product.
The first candidate vaccine was delivered to the National Institute of Health three weeks ago. It will take another few weeks to properly vet the vaccine before testing on human subjects. Testing should take at least four months. Assuming it works, it will then require mass manufacture, distribution and administration. The best-case scenario is that will take a minimum of one year and perhaps two to be available.
The Israelis are also testing another vaccine. Again, assuming it works, it will be some time before it is available at your doctor’s office. So, until we have a working vaccine, what can we do to avoid infection and injury?
Here are some simple strategies that actually work and – bonus – will also reduce your risks of contracting other infectious diseases.
• Wash your hands. Often. With soap. For at least 20 seconds (sing Happy Birthday to You twice – to yourself!). Especially once returning from a public space. And after coughing or sneezing.
• Purell. You need at least a 60% alcohol solution for it to be effective. Put a travel size in your bag/briefcase/backpack and use it often.
• Don’t touch your face. Don’t pick your nose. And if you must (and you will), use a Kleenex to do so.
• Bring a small pack of travel Kleenex with you. Use it to sneeze or cough. Use it to touch public surfaces (such as faucets, doorknobs, etc.)
• Don’t sneeze or cough into your hands – or into your elbow. If you have coronavirus, your elbow/clothing will be infectious for at least two days! Use Kleenex and discard.
• Avoid large enclosed public spaces with lots of people. Many companies are postponing large meetings. Switzerland has forbidden groups of 1,000 people or larger. I would recommend shopping online rather than spending a day at the mall. Similarly, watch Netflix rather than going to the movies. There is currently no restriction to public transportation – but stay tuned.
• Clorox wipes – have them with you in a zip-lock bag. Wipe down the grocery cart handle, the airline seatbelt and TV screen, etc. Let the Clorox fully dry before touching those surfaces – about 30 seconds. These easily kill the virus.
• Masks – these are of limited efficacy. Standard masks can allow the virus through. Specialty N-95 masks help but must be custom fitted so as to exclude any other air flow around your face. The nonsense available online doesn’t work. There is no data that masks help to avoid catching the virus. It does help to prevent transmission if you already have the virus… but they are sold out around the globe, so they’re not available to the sick. Don’t buy them. In Iran, stockpiling masks is now punishable by death!
• Don’t travel to endemic areas. Currently that list includes mainland China, South Korea, northern Italy, Iran and regions of Japan. The list is sure to grow. Check the CDC and State Department websites before embarking.
• Stop kissing and shaking hands to say hello and goodbye. For now, let’s all adhere to an elbow bump, sending kisses with a wave of the hand, or a friendly smile.
An Integrative Approach to Prevention
Surely there is more that we can do to prevent catching this virus. It starts by being healthy. Your innate immune system has the tools to fight of this and most other illnesses. What does it take to be healthy? You already know.
• Eat healthy, fresh, non-processed foods such as organic vegetables and fruits, lots of nuts and seeds, meats not treated with hormones or antibiotics – and raised humanely. Vary your nutrients daily. Prepare food respectfully – steam, don’t boil. Never deep fry. Cut out the sugars and starches. Use healthy oils such as avocado oil and olive oil. Avoid corn oil and vegetable oil and high fructose corn syrup. Avoid gluten, excess alcohol, and artificial sweeteners.
• Get plenty of rest. You need 6-8 hours per night.
• Work on lessening stress in your life. Stress interferes with the function of the immune system. Take up yoga, meditation, mindful walks, planting a garden. Surround yourself with beautiful pictures of nature – or even better, get out there and enjoy it directly. Download the Headspace or Calm apps and use then daily. Talk to and spend time with people you love. Laugh.
• Exercise. You need it. A minimum of 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (full perspiration, can’t breathe adequately with your mouth closed) or 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise.
• Hydration. Most of your ‘hunger’ is actually thirst. Keep a bottle or glass of water by your side all day and keep drinking. Don’t use plastic – it’s bad for your body, the ocean, and the earth. Use glass or stainless steel. Don’t drink soda – it’s a quick path to an early death. Look at your pee every time you go to the bathroom – if it’s clear you’re doing well. If it looks like Snapple, you are way behind!
Remember – supplements are supplemental. True health is achieved from all the measures I just discussed. A healthy lifestyle will plug 90% of the holes in the roof. Supplements with cover the last 10%. Adding supplements to a terrible lifestyle is a sure way not to get healthy. Keep your priorities straight. The following list of supplements are useful in fighting off viral illnesses and boosting immune function.
• Probiotics. 70% of your immune system resides in your gut in the form of the GALT – Gastrointestinal Associated Lymphoid Tissue. Invading organisms have only a single layer of your cells to conquer before they are in your body and wreaking havoc. Add more friends to fight off the foes. Take a quality probiotic daily and eat healthy foods.
• Vitamin D. Up your intake to about 5,000 IU daily.
• Vitamin C. Take at least 1,000mg twice per day.
• Selenium. Get this from Brazil nuts – eat 6-9 nuts daily or take 50 – 100 mcg daily.
• Zinc. Take about 30 mg daily, ideally by lozenges, e.g. Cold-Eeze
• Elderberry, Ferulic Acid, or Sodium Ferulate 600 – 1,500 mg
• Spirulina 15 grams
• NAC 600 mg twice daily, or Glutathione
• Monolaurin, such as in Humacel – 2 capsules twice daily
• Glucosamine, high dose (3 grams/days)
• Lipoic acid or Sulforaphane
• Brewer’s yeast beta-glucan
• Oregano oil
• Mycocommunity by Host Defense
• Viracid by Ortho Molecular
• GI -Encap by Thorne Research 2 capsules twice daily
• Immucare by Natura Health – this promotes healthy natural killer cell function during acute viral illnesses. 3 capsules daily.
• Mushroom Synergy by Natura Health – this modulates immune response and enhances cellular defense mechanisms. Take 2 capsules per day
• Biocidin LSF PUMP liquid. This has a broad spectrum natural anti-microbial and anti-viral activity that protects the body and oral cavity from harmful organisms. Use 2-3 pumps before boarding a plane, 2-3 pumps during flight and 2-3 pumps after the flight to minimize exposure to germs and pathogens. This can also be used daily.
• Colloidal silver spray