I hope this article provides some insight, facts, and tips that you can use to navigate through this very interesting, and somewhat crazy, time we’re all in. Thanks for reading, Dr. Gangemi
WHAT IT IS:
SARS-CoV-2 is a RNA virus in the family of coronaviruses that is currently causing the disease (Covid-19). Coronaviruses are responsible for the common cold, but this variant is most related to the coronaviruses that caused SARS and MERS. The virus seems to have a very high infectivity rate and a mortality rate on average of ~3.5%. There is not enough data yet to predict when/how the spread of the virus might end as RNA viruses are prone to mutation which means that the virulence and transmission will shift over time, so nobody can predict the outcome.
WHO IS AFFECTED:
There are thought to be two different groups of COVID-19 which may explain why the mortality rate has been higher in Wuhan, China than in more recent cases. Those with pre-existing health issues will be most affected. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, hypertension, and cancer are the pre-existing conditions for increased fatality rates. There is <1% death rate in individuals with no pre-existing conditions. Kids, (defined as anyone under age 19), get infected and transmit the virus but they rarely get sick. The death rate begins to increase in the 50-59 age category and really spikes in the 70+ age range.
The main symptoms are upper and lower respiratory distress along with possible fever and muscle aches, and some people experience gastrointestinal symptoms. Some with COVID-19 do not have an elevated temperature however! Very low levels of lymphocytes and high levels of the inflammatory marker CRP are the most common lab findings. White blood counts tend to be more normal than abnormal.
HOW IT WORKS:
The virus can really do some damage by affecting the lungs and by creating what is known as a cytokine storm, which I’ll talk more about in a bit. There are essentially two stages to the virus. First is the replicative stage where the white blood cells are activated, inflammation is triggered, and the person develops mild cold-like symptoms. The second stage involves what is known as the adaptive immune stage where the inflammatory cytokines can really take over. Cytokines are basically proteins that your immune system releases in response to an infection. They are necessary to heal, but they can also get out of control and cause a lot of damage and of course make a person feel very sick. It takes about 5-7 days for the adaptive immune system to kick in which is when the person will start to have symptoms of being sick. Considering that the incubation period of COVID-19 is thought to be approximately 2-14 days, you can see why it might take someone well over a week, perhaps much longer, to exhibit the true illness. There have actually been reports of incubation periods up to 19 days and even one at 27 days! Transmission from one person to the next then can occur approximately 8 days after the onset of illness and yes you can be asymptomatic and still be contagious.
HOW YOU GET IT:
Contact transmission is currently thought to be more prominent than airborne infection. This is why you’re hearing all the news about washing your hands and not touching your face. It’s thought that the human coronavirus can survive for up to one week on a surface. So – wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and clean surfaces with the appropriate sanitizing solutions.
Neuraminidase inhibitors such as Tamiflu (these block viruses from replicating), don’t seem to work here because the cell receptor is different from the influenza virus. Therefore, the herb elderberry will also not help with this aspect of the virus, nor will selenium. However, elderberry in particular may help with immune function as it is anti-inflammatory against the cells that can produce the cytokine storm particularly in the lungs, and it is known to be an effective antiviral. There’s a very good research article here on Covid-19 and elderberry if you’re interested in learning more. Antibiotics aren’t recommended because they are not effective against viruses and there is the possibility of a superimposed bacterial pneumonia. Steroids are also contraindicated as they are shown to be ineffective at treating the virus itself.
TREATMENTS: NATURAL AND IMMUNE STRENGTHENING TIPS
- Vitamin A – For my patients I typically recommending 10,000 IU a day of vitamin A during the cold & flu season. That then increases to 25,000 IU twice a day if you feel as though you’ve been exposed to a virus and 50,000 IU twice a day if you become sick. This dose is safe for approximately two weeks. (Adjust half-dose for kids.)
- Vitamin D – 6,000 IU once a day and 10,000 IU if you become sick
- Zinc – 30 mg once a day and 60 mg if you get sick
- Vitamin C? Everyone loves taking vitamin C for the immune system though I’ve never liked synthetic ascorbic acid. Some note the efficacy of vitamin C for the common cold as well as flu in the range of 3 grams or more a day. I continue to recommend the natural source of camu camu powder or cataplex C from Standard Process (4 – 4x a day).
- Consider immune strengthening & antiviral herbs (such as elderberry mentioned previously).
- To help improve the body’s cytokine breakdown you can take the amino acid glycine at 1,000 mg 4x a day. This is a clinical observation noted by some practitioners, including myself, who practice holistic medicine/nutritional biochemistry. Vitamin B6 (pyroxidal-5-phosphate) at 50 mg twice a day and folate (5MTHF) at 2 mg twice day may also help. Manganese (20 mg twice a day) and riboflavin (vitamin B2), around 15 mg twice a day, may also help.
- **Adjust the above half-dose for kids and of course I must say that nothing in this article is meant to treat or diagnose your specific condition – it’s just general advice. Always consult your health care practitioner – hopefully one you like and trust!
- HEY – Wash your hands! Don’t touch your face! Limit your contact with other people if your health is compromised – especially if you’re in the “at-risk” category. (But also remember that you can be infected and not know it and be transmitting the virus to others so have some awareness to who you’re around. In other words, don’t go handing out hot towels at your local nursing home on your way home from church.)
- Oh and the basics: sleep well, eat a healthy diet (like chill-out on the sugar as too much is never good for the immune system), try not to panic in these fearful times, and step away from too much news and social media! This is not going to go away tomorrow; we’re most likely looking at many, many months before the rates begin to decline.
NEW UPDATE TO COVID-19: AUGUST 3, 2020: SEE HERE.