By Susan U. Neal RN, MBA, MHS
The respiratory disease Coronavirus has been around a long time, but a new strain (named COVID-19) broke out in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the Coronavirus as a pandemic. There were over 118,000 cases in 114 countries with 4291 deaths with a 3.6 percent mortality rate.
A pandemic usually occurs when a virus is transferred from an animal to a human. This transmission causes a new (novel) virus to emerge, and humans have no immunity to it. Authorities believe the coronavirus COVID-19 originated from bats. The movie, Contagion, demonstrates how this type of transmission and pandemic could occur.
How does the Coronavirus’s mortality rate compare to the flu? The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that during the 2017–2018 flu season, the percentage of deaths attributed to influenza and pneumonia was at or above the epidemic threshold for four months. Nationally, mortality from the flu and pneumonia exceeded 10 percent for four consecutive weeks. That was a bad year for the flu.
Symptoms and Treatment
Symptoms of COVID-19 are a runny nose, sore throat, nasal congestion, fever, cough, body aches, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you’re developing symptoms, call your doctor. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or medication to treat the Coronavirus, but there isn’t one for the common cold either. Viruses fought by our immune systems, run their course, and we recover. Tamiflu, which took years to develop, helps lessen the effects of the flu. It may take up to eighteen months before a vaccine is available for the Coronavirus.
Higher Risk Individuals
The elderly (over sixty), immunosuppressed, those with severe medical conditions and chronic illnesses (diabetes, heart, or lung disease) are at a higher risk of not being able to fight off the Coronavirus. If you are at a higher risk, it is prudent to take precautions to reduce your chance of getting the virus. On March 8, 2020, the CDC recommended that people with a higher risk avoid cruise travel and nonessential air travel.
Transmission of Coronavirus
A January 2020 study funded by the CDC, found that on average individuals develop symptoms within five days of exposure to the virus, and 98 percent do within in twelve days. The CDC is still determining how the Coronavirus is spread. It is thought to spread mainly from person to-person:
Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
A person could touch a contaminated surface or object and then touch their nose or mouth. A study showed that the Coronavirus could live on metal and plastic surfaces for up to three days. The Coronavirus is spreading easily in communities.
The number one thing you can do is wash your hands for up to one minute, especially after touching surfaces in public places. Watch this WHO handwashing video. For example, after washing my hands in a public restroom, I grab an extra paper towel and use it to open the bathroom door to leave. I use that same paper towel to push the door open to exit the building.
Keep a container of antibacterial wipes in your car. Use a wipe to open doors to public buildings. After shopping, especially when handling money or signing with a public credit card pen, wipe your hands with a wipe when you return to your vehicle. Phones and purses pick up a lot of germs. Wipe off the bottom of your purse, wallet, and phone with an antiseptic wipe.
Tips to Build the Immune System
In addition to prevention tactics, boost your immune system so your body can fight off the virus
if you become exposed to it. Follow these immune building tips:
Take echinacea. I’ve taken Esberitox for over twenty years. This supplement includes two varieties of echinacea. The chewable tablets taste similar to SweetTarts so kids take them easily.
Avoid high sugar foods because sugar decreases the immune system. Don’t eat foods or beverages with added sugar, that includes sugar-laden coffee drinks.
Take a daily probiotic to enhance your gut microbiome which is where many of your immune cells are derived.
Avoid getting extremely cold. Lowering your body temperature reduces your immune system.
Eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and fruits. Avoid processed foods.
Increase your vitamin C intake by taking a supplement and eating citrus fruits.
Get your vitamin D through a supplement or get in the sun.
Exercise a couple of times a week.
Moderate your alcohol intake.
Sleep at least eight hours.
The WHO indicated that countries should detect, test, treat, and isolate people who get the virus. This can prevent the spread of it into the community. If you have symptoms call your doctor. If you contract the virus, protect others by isolating yourself. If someone in your family gets the virus, read the CDC guidelines.
The good news is that of the globally reported cases of the virus, more than 90 percent are in just four countries, and two of those countries—China and the Republic of Korea—have significantly declining epidemics. So it looks as though the virus may be about to run its course, similar to the flu season.
Spring is around the corner, and with warm weather colds, respiratory viruses, and the flu decrease. Hopefully, as the season changes, the threat of the Coronavirus will too. But until then, wash your hands vigilantly and boost your immune system.
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