Updated: Mar 21, 2020
In the last few weeks I have had several patients and friends ask me about the Coronavirus, also known as CoV-19, 2019-nCoV or SARS-CoV-2. Worldwide, as I write this there are 95,483 confirmed cases with 3,286 deaths and 53,688 recoveries.At this point it seems like the world has gone into Coronavirus hysteria. People are stocking up on facemasks and hand sanitizer, playing into fear as oppose to looking at the facts. As of March 2, 2019, China holds 90% of worldwide cases with the rate of infection slowly declining. The rate of infection has been slowly increasing in other countries like Iran, Italy, Germany, Canada and the USA.Understandably, the biggest concern is that CoV-19 is both highly contagious and aggressive, leading to death in some people. Symptoms may appear anywhere between 2-14 days after exposure and often include mild cold-like symptoms with uncomplicated respiratory involvement. In fact, a small group of people may exhibit no symptoms at all and simply be carriers.
The most commonly reported symptoms include:
Fever (not present in the young, elderly or immunocompromised)
Shortness of breath
Muscular stiffness or aches
Mild pneumonia· Severe pneumonia (now known as SARI if caused by CoV-19)
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
Sepsis and Septic Shock
Interestingly, children appear to be less vulnerable to CoV-19 than adults, with milder symptoms noted. One very small study of 9 infants under the age of 1 infected with CoV-19 found that none of the infants showed severe illness or complications (1). Currently, there have been ZERO reported deaths of children between 0-9 years old worldwide.
Pregnant women also do not appear to be at greater risk of complications. Another small study of 9 pregnant women with confirmed and symptomatic CoV-19 infection found that none had developed into SARI or died. All women gave birth via C-section to babies with normal Apgar scores. There was no virus found in the amniotic fluid, cord blood or breast milk (2).
When patients with CoV-19 die, it is typically due to sepsis, where the immune system goes haywire, producing an amplified cascade called a cytokine storm. The main goal of treatment should be to prevent a cytokine storm from occurring.
Scientists are intensely researching possible existing and new antiviral medication that may actively work against CoV-19 as well as working to develop a vaccine to prevent the spread of infection. At this point there is no known cure. The common antiviral medication Tamiflu, given when someone tests positive for the flu, is ineffective.
Preventing Coronavirus - Back To Basics:
1. Implement best practices when it comes to hygiene.
Get to know your elbows! If you have a cough, need to clear your throat or have to sneeze, make sure you do so into your elbow. 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch so make sure you aren’t coughing into your hands unless you plan on hand washing immediately after. Which by the way - wash your hands! Washing with soap and water is more effective than sanitizer in eliminating unwanted pathogens.
2. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
This is especially true for our little ones but for adults as well. Reduce the spread of germs by being mindful of how often your hands touch your face.
3. Stay home if you’re sick!
Seriously, besides CoV-19, it’s cold and flu season still. Be mindful of spreading any infection staying home if you’re sick. The rule of thumb with kids is to keep them home until they are fever free for 24 hours.
4. Irrigate your nose:
You probably don’t hear this often but irrigating the nose with a saline solution is one of the most effective ways of preventing influenza and other viral respiratory infections.
5. Your diet matters:
Consume foods with antiviral properties such as: raw garlic, ginger, oregano, apple cider vinegar, and medicinal mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, reisi, cordyceps and turkeytail).
Loading up of vegetables and fruits will drive the body into a repair and regenerative state by providing antioxidants and phytonutrients to destroy free radical damage and strengthen the immune system. If your child isn’t keen on vegetables, try incorporating smoothies (with a handful of greens or green powder), soups, pureed pasta sauces or anything else you think might entice your kiddo.
Bone broth has some powerful immune-supporting properties. You can either make it at home or purchase store bought. If you do but it from a store, be sure to read the ingredients.
6. Get some sleep.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night for optimal immune functioning. A lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to infection.
7. Minimize stress levels.
Stress reduces immune function and promotes inflammation. Stress has been shown to reduce our white blood cell counts and our ability to fight infection. Reduce stress through deep breathing and meditation, physical activity, reducing screen time and social media use, and taking adrenal support as prescribed by a licensed Naturopathic Doctor.
Supplements that Support the Immune System and have Protective Effects Against Sepsis:
Fortunately, there are many supplements that are known to support immune functioning and provide an antiviral defence.
1. Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body ward off and fight infection. High dose Vitamin C for the prevention and treatment of respiratory infections is well established and a recent study found that 1.5 grams of intravenous Vitamin C, administered every 6 hours, totalling 6 grams daily, given with hydrocortisone and thiamine (Vitamin B1) was found to significantly decrease mortality and prevent progressive organ failure in patients with sepsis. As a matter of fact, patients treated with Vitamin C had an 8.5% death rate compared with 40.4% - that’s significant! (3). There are currently studies investigating Vitamin C infusions in the treatment of severe CoV-19 infected pneumonia (4).
2. Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is essential for the immune system. There is speculation that the rates of illness increases in the winter months because Vitamin D intake is significantly reduced with shorter days and less outdoor exposure. Within the body, Vitamin D produces small, cationic, antimicrobial peptides known as cathelicidin, which not only have antimicrobial and immune modulatory effects; cathelicidin also neutralize lipopolysaccharides that are responsible for so much of the damage we see in sepsis (5).
Zinc supplementation can improve our immune cells’ ability to fight infection. It enhances the actions of many immune cells, and decreases oxidative stress markers and the generation of inflammatory cytokines. Zinc containing foods include oysters, wheat germ, sesame, pumpkin, squash and watermelon seeds, roast beef, garlic and chickpeas.
Striking new findings suggest the possibility that high-dose glucosamine supplementation might help in the prevention and control of RNA viral infections such as CoV-19 (6). This is a random one! Not your typical immune supplement.
5. Probiotics and Fish Oil:
The list of benefits for both are too long too list but let me offer a short explanation: 80% of the immune system lines the digestive system. If the digestive system is somehow impaired, the immune system will be too. Probiotics have been well studied to regulate immune functioning by repairing the integrity of the digestive system. Omega 3 fish oils provide anti-inflammatory effects that are fundamental to a healthy and effective immune response.
Please remember that self-prescribing supplements often leads to incorrect dosage which can either make the supplement ineffective or cause unwanted side effects. It is important to consult with a licensed Naturopathic Doctor. Nutritionist, or and integrative Medical Doctor.
Beyond basic prevention and immune system support with diet and supplements, there are a number of botanical herbs and Traditional Chinese Medicines that are also promising for the prevention and treatment of CoV-19. Stay tuned for a thorough review.
**Disclaimer: Information about the novel coronavirus is changing daily. There are currently no studies to confirm that specific supplements or dietary changes can prevent or treat CoV-19. All advice offered here is general advice. If you are showing signs of CoV-19 be sure to contact your primary health care provider on the appropriate next steps in your province or state.