How Worried Should I Be About the Coronavirus?
Coronavirus. We’re being bombarded with information about it. And because nothing (not even viruses!) spreads as fast as misinformation, I’d like to answer the questions I’ve heard and set the facts straight.
I want to give you as much knowledge as possible on the status of the coronavirus and steps you can take to protect yourself from this, as well as any other virus. Because the information is changing so rapidly, I’ll be updating this article regularly as I know more.
First, a lesson in naming. The new virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2. The illness it causes has been named COVID-19. It’s also called the “novel coronavirus” because it’s a new, or novel, virus.
All viruses are microscopic biological agents that consist of a nucleic acid (usually RNA and sometimes DNA) encased in a protein. Those nucleic acids are the same building blocks we have in our bodies. A virus inserts itself directly inside a host’s cells and replicates rapidly.
Coronaviruses, including this new one, have spike-like structures that resemble a crown. That’s where the “corona” part comes in. The protein spikes of the crown enable the virus to attach to our cells. At least one of the reasons the SARS-CoV-2 is different than all other coronaviruses is because it has a unique spike protein. This particular protein has a site on it which is activated by a host-cell enzyme called furin.
Furin is found in lots of human tissues, including the lungs, liver, and small intestines. According to Li Hua, a biologist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, this could mean the virus can attack multiple organs. That finding could explain some of the symptoms observed in people with the coronavirus, such as liver failure.1
Generally, once you have been exposed to a virus, your body recognizes it. The next time you come into contact with it, your immune system protects you from it. This is why once you’ve had chickenpox, you won’t get it again.
There are 219 different viruses known to infect humans, not including this new variant. These range from the four that cause the common cold (and these are all in the human coronavirus family), to ones that cause warts and cold sores, to more serious ones such as HIV, smallpox, and Ebola.
New viruses arise in two different ways:
1. Antigenic Drift
Antigenic drift describes a change in a virus’s antigens (an antigen is what activates your immune system) that happens in increments over time. These small changes produce viruses that are closely related to one another. However, as the virus changes, your body may no longer recognize it.
For example, you can get the seasonal flu every year because as the virus moves around the world from person to person, it changes a tiny bit. By the time it gets back to you, it may be so different that your body no longer recognizes it. That’s why a new flu vaccine is developed each year.
2. Antigenic Shift
An antigenic shift is an abrupt, significant change in a virus that results in a new protein structure. Although it’s not necessarily the only way it happens, an antigenic shift can occur when a virus that normally infects only animals crosses the animal-human barrier. This is how Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), for example, came into being.
Antigenic shifts happen very rarely. In fact, it’s only happened four times in about the last 100 years: 1918, 1957, 1963, and 2009. However, when an antigenic shift does happen, the virus tends to infect many people because most of the population has little or no immunity to the new virus. And in fact, all of those were caused by antigenic shifts in the influenza virus.
This coronavirus outbreak is the result of an antigenic shift and is believed to be the first pandemic caused by the emergence of a new coronavirus. It existed in animals first, then made the leap to humans. In this case, researchers think it was transmitted from a bat to a person in Wuhan, China. From there, the virus has been transmitted from one person to another.
How easily an illness caused by a virus spreads varies. Some viruses, such as the rubella virus that causes measles, can remain in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves the room.
Although there is still much more to learn, scientists believe coronavirus is generally spread from person to person among close contact, probably no farther than about 6 feet. It’s believed to spread mainly via respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This is how most other respiratory illnesses spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Scientists from National Institutes of Health (NIH), CDC, UCLA, and Princeton University who analyzed the data found SARS-CoV-2 was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, copper up to four hours, cardboard up to 24 hours, and plastic and stainless steel up to two to three days.2
With most respiratory viruses, people are likely to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic, that is when they’re the sickest. However, those with COVID-19 are almost certainly able to spread the virus to others before they develop symptoms. That’s why social distancing, avoiding groups, and hand washing are so important.
The coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic, that is, a worldwide epidemic, on March 11. Most patients (80%) experience mild illness. Those at greatest risk of severe complications, including death, are older than 60 years of age and already have another illness. Currently, the mortality rate is estimated at about 2-3%.
At this time, researchers believe the coronavirus symptoms may appear in as little as 2 days or as many as 14 days after exposure. If you develop any of the symptoms listed below, call your healthcare provider for guidance.
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath3
- Sputum (mucus) production
- Aches and pains
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Unexplained loss of senses of smell or taste
In severe cases:
- kidney failure
- Liver damage
These symptoms can be very mild throughout the illness or they can progress to cause severe respiratory problems including death.4 COVID-19 can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be mistaken for a cold or flu. A lab test will be needed to confirm a diagnosis.
What Should I Do if I Think I’m Sick?
First, let me reassure you that your risk of contracting the virus, regardless of the city you live in, will remain low if you shelter at home, practice social distancing, wash your hands, refrain from touching your face, and wear a cloth covering over your nose and mouth when you do go out.
The Department of Health and Human Services was empowered to enable more telehealth visits, to allow physicians licensed in states that are less affected to practice in other states with greater infection rates, and to expand where patients may be treated. All of this is to help assure that everyone who needs care will get it.
In the meantime, if you meet any of the criteria above, stay at home except to get medical care and follow the precautions below to help control the spread. Remember, these are good precautions to follow any time you have a contagious illness, including the seasonal flu.
- Call ahead. Contact your doctor’s office to see if any special precautions need to be set up to prevent workers or other patients from catching the virus.
- Isolate yourself. This is a 3-parter.
- Keep away from people, including the rest of your family and any pets or farm animals, as much as possible.
- Wear a face mask if you must be with other people.
- If you have more than one bathroom in your home, designate one for the person who is ill and the other for everyone else.
- If that’s not possible, close the toilet lid before flushing and disinfect the toilet handle and faucet after each use.
- Don’t share. Reserve utensils, dishes, blankets, or towels for the person who is ill and sanitize them in hot water after each use.
- Become a clean freak. Have all “high-touch” surfaces including countertops, doorknobs, faucets, keyboards, remotes, etc. cleaned thoroughly and regularly.
- Cough and sneeze under cover. Practice good hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away in a lined trash bin and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean them with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Wash, touch, wash. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer, rubbing your hands together until they feel dry. If you must touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, do it after you’ve washed your hands. Then wash your hands again.
Even with all our modern advances, the best treatment is prevention. That’s especially true for a new virus such as SARS-CoV-2. This is one place where functional medicine and conventional medicine — including the Centers for illness Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization — agree.
Even if you are in a low-risk group, I urge you to stay informed and respect any restrictions such as self-quarantine. If you contract the virus, you may have a mild case but you can transmit the virus to someone who develops a severe case. Slowing or stopping the spread of the virus will prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed.
I urge you to take the following precautions because the best way to avoid any contagious illness is to limit your exposure.
- Respect any travel restrictions or quarantine instructions.
- Stay at home, except for essential errands.
- Practice good hygiene by washing hands thoroughly (and I mean your whole hand — not just your fingers!) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Encourage everyone you know to refrain from traveling or attending large gatherings during the outbreak.
- Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash.
- Practice social distancing — at least 6 feet — whenever you leave your home.
- Wear a cloth covering over your nose and mouth when you leave your home.
Those in good health are more likely to stave off illness and/or recover quickly, so support your immune system and your overall health with fresh, organic foods. Choose grass-fed meats, organic chicken, and wild-caught fish. Eat a wide array of organic produce and avoid toxic and inflammatory foods including gluten, dairy, highly processed foods, alcohol, and sugar.
Yet even when we’re eating a diet of organic produce and pasture-raised meats, it can be difficult to get all the nutrients our bodies need due to soil depletion. The fact is, the vegetables we eat today simply don’t have the nutrients of the same types of produce grown just 50 years ago. And the grasses our animals graze on have the same problem.
That’s why I always advocate everyone takes a multivitamin. My specially formulated The Myers Way® Multivitamin is designed to build the ultimate foundation for optimal health and includes antioxidants like vitamins C and E and other free radical scavengers as well as all the other vitamins and minerals you need in the forms your body can absorb.
As you know, your gut is the home to your immune system, so ensuring a healthy gut is critical in boosting your immune response. Collagen from bone broth is full of amino acids and peptides that help maintain and promote optimal gut lining health. The cells lining your intestinal tract absolutely love this stuff! My new certified organic Bone Broth Collagen is a comforting treat, just like a bowl of homemade chicken soup. It’s a simple and delicious way to nurture your gut.
Vitamin D3 is essential for supporting healthy immune system function, yet nearly half of all Americans are deficient in this critical nutrient. Vitamin D works hand in hand with your body to modulate immune activity. Many immune cells have receptors for vitamin D. This means that vitamin D plays a big role in modulating both innate and adaptive immune responses. My Vitamin D3/K2 Capsules contain 10,000iu of super bioavailable vitamins to ensure you receive the optimal amount. I also offer it as a liquid supplement for those prefer to avoid capsules.
One of the other major factors impacting our health is our stress level. I’ve said many times that we can never avoid stress completely, yet we can learn to manage it. Eating an optimal diet and getting enough sleep will both help ease stress. Read this article to learn ways to manage the stress that can lead to anxiety.
When you’re under constant stress, your body’s supply of the master detoxifier, glutathione, can be rapidly depleted. Glutathione is the body’s ultimate free radical scavenger. It’s critical for coordinating the activity of antioxidants in your cells. The power of vitamin C, vitamin E, and even the free radical fighters CoQ10 and ubiquinol are all coordinated by appropriate glutathione levels.
My acetylated Glutathione comes in the most bioavailable form available on the market. The acetylation process and microcluster molecular structure ensures that it won’t break down before your body has a chance to absorb it, and that it is in the right form to actually be absorbed.
An optimally functioning immune system is one of the keys to health. My ImmunIG™ offers high-quality colostral whey peptides. Colostral whey peptides are protein fractions from colostrum, which is a very special kind of mammalian milk produced only immediately after giving birth.
ImmunIG™ is a concentrated source of immunoglobulins, special proteins created by your immune system. Your white blood cells create these glycoproteins to bind to all kinds of antigens. Viruses, bacteria, and even inflammatory proteins from the foods we eat may all be bound by immunoglobulins to be destroyed or carried out of the body. ImmunIG™ is a fantastic way to support your immune health!
Please take extra precautions during this time to ensure the health of yourself and your family. Stay informed about what is happening in your community, and stay positive about your ability to take control of your health.
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