No doubt you have heard of the cruise ship the Diamond Princess which was quarantined in Yokohama Japan once the Corona virus was identified on the ship. I got off that ship on Monday January 20 the day patient “0”, the person contaminated with the virus got on the ship. I had just finished a gut health tour through parts of Asia including 5 health lectures on the ship. In fact, some of the people who came to my talks were still on the ship when it went into lock down.
The worst thing they could have done for those people is keep them all on the ship, lots of old sicker people locked inside sharing the germs. Despite this, only around 10% of the people contracted the virus and at this point in time only 5 people had died from the virus. That is 5 from the original 5000 and they were all over 70 years of age and already had health complications. What is interesting is that the majority of the people on this ship were aged but still only a small percentage contracted it and suffered severe symptoms. While this is devastating it is important to put all of this in perspective.
This also mirrors what we already know from recent studies where the majority of these cases the people who contract these virus, including the Corona virus and get very sick and die are people, who already have a compromised immune system. As reported by the ABC “A study of 72000 people with COVID-19 from China has found most people only develop mild symptoms and do not die. The deaths occur in people who already had serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes high blood pressure or cancer. No deaths occurred in children and those most at risk of dying were aged over 70 with an even higher death rate in people aged over 80. Since then a few younger people have died from the virus but it is highly likely they too were under some form of serious health stress
Putting this in perspective every year there are variants of these respiratory viruses that many people contract and get sick from and a much smaller number die from. Best estimates around the world suggest that there are three to five million severe illness cases and between 500,000 and 1million people die from these respiratory viruses each year. The World Health Organization estimates a total of 25 to 50 million cases each year resulting in 150 000 hospitalizations and 30 000 to 40 000 deaths in the United States alone.
While isolation will work and slow down the virus spread it is only a matter of time before it or another virus becomes another pandemic and kills lots of people. In reality, the vaccines are also of little value as they fail to afford protection against new pandemic influenza viruses, with minimal or no benefit reported in healthy children and adults. The frequent alterations the genetic structure of the virus structure pose difficulties in the development of vaccine especially for RNA viruses which the Corona virus is one of.
Instead we should be looking at the growing body of scientific evidence surrounding natural therapies to help build the immune system and reduce the risk of getting the virus as well as the severity of the illness. While there will never be a cure there are many things we can do to help our system cope. However, specific studies on the effectiveness of natural remedies to assist with the Corona virus will not available for some years but we can look for what current shows good results for the other viruses.
Some of the natural therapies which show up with lots of research include Vitamins, especially Vitamin C, minerals, essential fatty acids, gut health foods like fibre, prebiotics and probiotics, essential oils, herbs, spices as well as some lifestyle changes including managing stress. Not only is this common sense but there are hundreds upon hundreds of studies published in scientific journals which support their use. Unlike the drugs these solutions can be combined to work on different levels including directly attacking the virus as well as improving your immune system.
In fact already in many “non-western” parts of the world like Asia people have been told by official sources to use particular supplements and herbs. While this is widely criticised by the pharmaceutical companies and their governments there is ample evidence to take this action. There are for example hundreds of studies on the role of vitamin C in improving immune function, reducing susceptibility to viruses and their severity. In fact high doses of intravenous vitamin C have been shown to be very effective in patients who already have the virus and at least 3 trials are currently underway on the corona virus and vitamin C now.
Authorities in China are already recommending higher doses of vitamin C and a quote from Chinese authorities puts it in perspective.
"We need to broadcast a message worldwide very quickly: Vitamin C (small or large dose) does no harm to people and is the one of the few, if not the only, agent that has a chance to prevent us from getting, and can treat, COVID-19 infection. When can we, medical doctors and scientists, put patients' lives first?" (Richard Z. Cheng, MD, PhD, International Vitamin C China Epidemic Medical Support Team Leader)
This is not a claim that these supplements and changes are going to stop the virus in its tracks, that is not the case. Rather it is about reducing your overall risk while also improving your health. It is a win-win. To put it in perspective I take 3 grams of vitamin C a day and more if I get an infection, any infection.
The other option is to buy lots of toilet paper and do nothing as about protecting our health other than washing our hands and waiting for a vaccine.
In the following corona virus blogs we will be investigating some of the specific actions I have highlighted above and the relevant research. In the mean time look after your health with good nutrition, healthy lifestyle changes and keeping informed.
Update from the New England journal of medicine. February 28, 2020