I’ve been reading all of the ‘hype’ about this virus and I decided that I had to say something about it. I’m blown away at how ridiculous this whole thing has become. You may or may not know that, in addition to seeing patients at Revolution Health (our Tulsa, Oklahoma Functional Medicine Clinic), I also work in the Emergency Room. In fact, I’ve worked in over 10 different Emergency Rooms over the last 13 years and I’ve seen a lot of stuff.
One of the more common issues I’ve seen in virtually every Emergency Department is related to flu like illness or the common cold. The vast majority of these patients do not need an Emergency Department evaluation and nothing is done for them except tylenol or ibuprofen for symptom management. Keep in mind that these patients almost never have breathing difficulty, hypoxia (low oxygen levels), or any other signs of a severe illness. They simply feel bad and they have a fever, cough, runny nose, body aches, etc.
In the absence of severe illness, these patients DO NOT need to be seen. Some may want the medication for influenza, Tamiflu. Check out my podcast about Tamiflu if you want more information about that. Some hospitals have a respiratory panel available. This is typically a PCR test which is able to detect and identify a handful of viruses (rhinovirus, influenza, RSV, adenovirus, etc) which could explain symptoms. However, the results rarely change our management other than providing information on how patients may limit exposure to others.
I’ve seen a number of different virus “scares” over the years. You may recall Swine Flu in 2008-2009. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) was a big concern in 2003. Interestingly, SARS was due to a novel Coronavirus though not the same as SARS-CoV-2 currently in the spotlight for causing COVID-19.
Coronaviruses have been around for a long time and are responsible for up to 1/3 of all upper respiratory tract infections (common cold type illnesses).1-3 However, COVID-19 seems to affect more people, be more transmissible, and have more potential for severe illness than the common cold.
How is the Coronavirus (COVID-19) transmitted?
The primary method of transmission is person to person though respiratory droplets. That means that an infected person coughs, sneezes, or breathes droplets of respiratory secretions which contain the virus and distributes them into the air. These airborne droplets then come in contact with another person who could contract the virus.
While it is believed that the virus can be transmitted by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes, etc), it is NOT thought to be a primary means of transmission.
The virus is likely most transmissible when a person is at the height of their illness. However, they MAY be able to transmit the virus before they know they may have it.
The incubation period for COVID-19 appears to be less than 14 days with most cases exhibiting symptoms around 5 days after exposure.5,6
What happens if I get the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
In many cases, it is the same as the common cold. That is one reason that I believe the hype around all of this Coronavirus hysteria is a bunch of hogwash!
Initial reports from China demonstrated that 6.1% of patients having COVID-19 were admitted to the ICU (5%), put on a ventilator (2.3%), or died (1.4%). Fever was the most common symptom – 43.8% of patients who were admitted but the number increased to 88.7% during their hospitalization. 67.8% of patients had a cough.5 It is important to keep in mind that most of the sicker patients were elderly or immuno-compromised.
Let me be very clear here, only 2.3% of patients required a ventilator. Only 1.4% died. Death to any patient is a bad thing but the fear mongering about this virus has gotten totally out of control! For example, an article published in The Atlantic painted the picture that the disease is so severe in Italy that hospitals and physicians are being completely overwhelmed.7 At the time of this writing (the same day of the Atlantic article by the way), there are over 10,000 cases of COVDI19 in Italy with 631 deaths. While this death rate is 3 times higher than that in China, it is still only 6.3%.
If the Wuhan data is also true for Italy then there are only 230 patients on a ventilator due to COVID19 in Italy. Even if it is 3 times higher, as is the mortality rate, it is 690 patients. This is much lower than Mr Mounk would lead you to believe in his Atlantic article. While 690 patients on a ventilator is too high, it is just not the medically overwhelming numbers stated. This is just another example of the hyper-inflated, biased approach with which the media is delivering information and it isn’t doing any of us any favors!
A word of advice: if you have any of the symptoms but have no evidence of severe disease then stay home! It may be helpful for epidemiologic purposes to have a diagnosis but it won’t make any difference (in most cases) to know you have it.
There is a complete lack of education on how to handle acute viral illness such as flu, common cold, COVID-19, or any other acute upper respiratory infection. There are no specific treatments for these infections so there is little need to go to the doctor just to get a diagnosis unless you have a severe disease requiring hospitalization. Just because you (or your child) have a fever does NOT mean that you need to go to the ER!
What can I do if I am exposed or actually have Coronavirus?
As stated previously, there are no specific treatments or cures for SARS-CoV-2. Treatment is symptomatic. That simply means that you treat the symptoms. There simply isn’t much that we (doctors) do for many of the symptoms until you are severely ill.
For Severe Illness:
What is severe illness? The full definition is beyond the scope of this article but suffice it to say that you can’t breathe, your oxygen levels are declining, your level of consciousness is declining, and so on. These are the kind of symptoms that would get you admitted to the hospital, placed in the ICU, or put on a ventilator.
For Non-Severe Illness:
What is non-severe illness? Basically, it is everything else. Fever, cough, runny-nose, fatigue, body aches, etc. If these symptoms remind you of the flu then you are right. The reason is that these symptoms are the body’s immune response kicking in to a viral infection. That is why it is so hard to tell between the flu and the common cold. The body responds to many of these viruses in the same way.
There are no specific treatments or cures for the Coronavirus or COVID19. However, there ARE things that you can do that may help your immune system better fight the virus. The better your immune system works the better it an fight the virus. Therefore, our recommendations are based around optimizing your immune system as well as your overall health.
Recommendation #1: lower stress, get plenty of sleep, and get moving (exercise).
Recommendation #2: Garbage in, garbage out. Get rid of the garbage! Eat good, high-quality foods. Be sure to get plenty of fruits and vegetables. Follow the Revolution Nutrition plan.
Recommendation #3: Zinc Glyinate 20mg daily. Zinc plays a critical role in multiple biological processes. It has critical roles in the immune process as well. In fact “Recent studies have demonstrated that zinc supplementation can significantly reduce the morbidity and mortality of apparently well-nourished children and shorten the time to recovery from acute infectious diseases.8” Now here is a VERY interesting piece of information. Zinc blocks the replication of Coronavirus in vitro9 (in a petrie dish).
Recommendation #4: NAC 600mg twice daily. N-Acetyl Cysteine is an antioxidant and at least one study shows that it can decrease the inflammatory response to community acquired pneumonia. This particular study described the oxidative damage that occurs with viral pneumonia and how the antioxidant systems are quickly overwhelmed.10 NAC appears to blunt this affect. NAC is also a mucolytic meaning that it helps break up secretions.
Recommendation #5: Vitamin C 2 grams daily. That is, of course, if you are taking it orally. Unfortunately, there is a limit to our gastrointestinal absorption so if you take more than you can absorb then it just passes through (with some uncomfortable bowel side effects.
The real benefit is with IV Vitamin C. The serum levels are orders of magnitude higher than oral. We’ve been using IV Vitamin C for years at Revolution and our patients love it. I’ve noticed tremendous benefit myself with acute illness such as the common cold or flu-like illness.
While there are no studies showing benefit with coronavirus we do know that Vitamin C has had significant benefit on viral and bacterial infections. There is a lot of information about Vitamin C in this paper: Vit C – 42 year stonewall.
Recommendation #6: Immunotix 500 1 capsule daily. Immunotix is made with whole glucan particle which has been shown to have positive immune supporting effects. Research has shown that these glucan particles “prime” neutrophils and make them better able to provide support against microbial challenges.11
Recommendation #7: Viragraphis 1 capsule twice daily. Viragraphis is a supplement containing 3 separate herbs which may support immune response, maintains healthy lung tissue, and supports a healthy response to inflammation. Andrographis, one of the herbs in Viragraphis, was shown to be “effective in reducing symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection” in one study.12 The other 2 herbs, Licorice Root Extract and Isatis indigotica, also provide immune support and upper respiratory tract health.
Recommendation #8: Xcellent A 7500. “Vitamin A deficiency results in multiple derangements that impair the response to infection.”13 While this study didn’t prove that Vitamin A supplementation treats viral illness, it is clear that vitamin A deficiency contributes.
Recommendation #9: Consider other interventions such as Vitamin D, Argentyn 23, Olive Defense, Elderberry, and many other possibilities. They are worth a shot.
Finally, there is an experimental drug, DRACO, which “could cure nearly any viral infection” according to MIT News. Unfortunately, continued research was halted due to a lack of funding. That just sounds ludicrous as it may be just what the doctor ordered.
In summary, the hype around this virus is ridiculous. Certainly, we should take REASONABLE precautions and protect those at risk. However, shutting down entire countries, cancelling all of these events and gatherings, and countless other knee-jerk reactions just seems asinine.
We should do everything we can to be as healthy as possible and we need to be comprehensive in our approach.
Coronavirus Treatment References
- J Infect Dis. 1974;130(5):502
- Am J Epidemiol. 1970;91(6):585
- Yale J Biol Med. 1974;47(4):234
- N Engl J Med. 2020 Jan 29
- N Engl J Med. 2020 Feb 28
- Ann Trop Paediatr. 2005 Sep;25(3):149-60
- Int J Immunopharmacol. 1998 Nov;20(11):595-614.
- Phytomedicine 17 (2010) 178–185
- FASEB J. 1996 Jul;10(9):979-85.