By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Proactive Health
If you have been to any airport recently, I bet you’ve seen many people wearing face masks. I also bet you know the reason behind this now popular airport attire. It is the coronavirus!
This virus is quite the talk of the town and maybe has many people scared.
I am not scared and you shouldn’t be either. Instead, be proactive and educate yourself about how to withstand this virus as well as others.
So what exactly is the coronavirus?
First, to clear things up a bit, there are actually coronaviruses (emphasis on the plural). Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause sickness ranging from something relatively insignificant as the common cold to more serious respiratory disease.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means that they are transmitted between animals and people. For example, if a person with a virus sneezes on you or near you and you breathe the droplets in, you could get the virus.
Now, “the coronavirus” that causes severe respiratory illness and has everyone concerned is a new type of coronavirus called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This particular kind was first identified in Wuhan, China (now often called the “Coronavirus Capital”) back in December. Health officials believe people contracted the virus from animals at a seafood and poultry market.
Coronavirus is a global problem.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus has now been detected in 50 locations internationally, including in the United States. This recent news article claims that a U.S. patient “has contracted novel coronavirus with no clue as to where it came from.”
Furthermore, “The California patient didn’t travel anywhere known to have the virus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. And the patient wasn’t exposed to anyone known to be infected. That means this could be the first US case of ‘community spread’ of the virus.”
According to the article, this patient is one of 60 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States.
“Forty-two cases are former passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the site of a recent virus outbreak. Most of the other 15 were travelers coming back from China or their spouses. Three others were repatriated from China.”
Italy is also experiencing a major outbreak, with reportedly 650 cases and 17 deaths. And South Korea and Iran have been hit pretty bad too. (Click here for a map and updates).
“Apart from China, where it was first detected in December, Iran has recorded the most deaths from the new form of coronavirus. There have been 2,747 deaths in China, out of a total of at least 78,497 confirmed cases,” according to this NBC News article.
(No deaths due to the coronavirus have been reported in the U.S., reports the CDC. There are, however, some people in critical condition and there are many people being quarantined. You can read more about cases in the U.S. here).
“But Iran’s reported mortality rate — about 11 percent — surpasses the rate for other countries by a dramatic margin.”
Why is this virus making people so sick – deathly ill in some cases?
This type of coronavirus can cause respiratory illness ranging from mild to severe (even deadly). And you should care about respiratory illnesses because they implicate your lungs.
Your lungs are part of your breathing system, also known as your respiratory system. You have your lungs to thank for every breath of air you take. Your lungs move fresh air, which includes oxygen, into your body when you inhale. Your blood transports this oxygen throughout your body to your cells.
Every cell in the body needs oxygen to live and function. The cells use oxygen to help metabolize (burn) the nutrients released from the food you eat and for energy. Without oxygen, your food would be useless and you would die within minutes partly because you would be unable to convert all those great nutrients you consume from the foods you eat into energy that your bodies can use. This energy is what the body uses to fuel the muscles and brain, remove waste, control your genes and even heal.
To put your need for oxygen in perspective, you can live for weeks without food, days without water but only a few minutes without oxygen.
So understanding the importance of oxygen and breathing makes it easier to understand the seriousness of viruses like coronaviruses which attack the respiratory system.
The symptoms usually start between two to 14 days after you get infected, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Older people are at a much greater risk of death from the coronavirus. A 60-year-old French man recently died from the virus. One source says that a study of more than 44,000 coronavirus patients found evidence which suggested that patients over the age of 80 have a 15 percent chance of dying. In addition to this, patients in their 50s were three times more likely to die than patients in their 40s.
As we age, our immune systems become less capable of fighting off viruses and other harmful pathogens. There is no vaccine for the coronavirus or a specific treatment. Symptoms have to be managed in a medical setting as best as possible.
But there is no need to panic. Be proactive.
According to Harvard Health, “In the US, the average person is at extremely low risk of catching this novel coronavirus. This winter, in fact, we are much more likely to get influenza B — the flu — than any other virus: one in 10 people have influenza each flu season. It’s still not too late to get a flu shot, an easy step toward avoiding the flu. If you do get the flu despite having gotten the vaccine, studies show that severe illness, hospitalization, ICU admission, and death are less likely to occur.”
Some may beg to differ, but it is true that we are more than likely going to see more cases of this virus pop up. The World Health Organization is saying that the virus has “pandemic potential.” But all we can do is protect ourselves and our immune systems as best as possible. In fact, panicking leads to stress and stress leads to a weakened immune system and a weakened immune system means less of a chance to fight the coronavirus.
Here are a few ways we can help to reduce the likelihood or impact of the coronavirus:
- Wash your hands. I cannot stress this enough. This is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Use warm, soapy water and wash for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief or tissue while coughing or sneezing. Never cough or sneeze into your hand.
- Thoroughly cook meat and eggs.
- Avoid contact with those who are sick. And if you are sick, keep to yourself. Do not go to work!
- Avoid smoking.
- Drink in moderation (if at all).
- Understand the importance of keeping your immune system in good shape with a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition.
- Stay hydrated. Water is an extremely important nutrient for immune function. Water helps carry oxygen to cells in the body, and oxygenated cells are necessary for systems in the body, like the immune system, to function properly. Water also helps flush toxins out of the body that can cause infections.
Your white blood cells play a critical role in your fight against the coronavirus and other viruses and infections that could lead to pneumonia and severe respiratory illness. Think of your white blood cells as being “immune system cells.”
You want to have the optimal number of these cells to ensure you are in the best position to combat viruses and infections. A great way to be proactive about making sure you have plenty of these white blood cells is by making sure you get an adequate intake of nutrients such as zinc, selenium and vitamins B9, B12, C and E.
(To learn more about the importance of your white blood cells as well as nutrients and healthy food sources where you can get them, read here).
Schedule routine nutrient tests in order to identify any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies you may have. If the test reveals you have too much or too little of a certain nutrient, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
Taking advantage of IV vitamin drips or injections is also a great way to boost your immunity (especially while traveling). I take advantage of these drips at the pH Drip Lab on a monthly basis to boost my immune system and address my inevitable nutrient absorption issues with vitamin C.
It is always better to be safe than sorry. And the sooner a case of coronavirus is addressed, the quicker the recovery and the better the outcome will likely be.
Enjoy your healthy life!