Coronavirus: Know the Facts, Boost your Immunity
Despite the reduced risk of fatality, the COVID-19 virus is still cause for concern, but knowing the facts and keeping our immunity strong are the key ingredients to navigating the crisis.
The purpose of this article is to clarify some of the facts regarding our risk of infection and the risks associated with the infection. It is also regarding what we can do now, beyond washing our hands and staying away from others.
As we will show in this article, the facts on the ground paint an entirely different picture than what is being portrayed in among some media outlets.
Let’s review the facts, dispel some myths and then explore some commonsense strategies – relating to using plant medicines.
Latest on the Wuhan coronavirus
The SARS-like coronavirus that appears to have originated in Wuhan, China has now infected thousands of people.
Investigators suspect that the virus originated at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. The market’s vendors have been selling live or butchered animals in addition to fish and other marine life.
As of April 5, 2020, there have been over 1.2 million confirmed cases around the world. Over 82,000 of these cases were in mainland China – a number that has plateaued over the past month. Many other countries around the world now have COVID-19 cases.
Over 80,000 of these cases in China have been reported to be recovered.
To contain the coronavirus, millions of people have been under lock-down orders around the world. This includes cities, states and entire countries in the case of some European countries and the United Kingdom. The Centers for Disease Control has published there are over 300,000 infection cases and over 7,600 deaths as of April 5, 2020.
What is the true mortality rate?
As of March 20, over 11,000 people have died from the virus. While this should translate to over 3 percent fatality rate, testing is such that it is assured that many more people have contracted the virus, with many mild or asymptomatic cases.
For this reason, many researchers have pegged the mortality rate in the 2 percent range or lower because so few people have been tested. Many scientists agree that 1 percent or lower is a more likely figure given the rarity of testing. A February study from the Journal of American Medical Association showed a COVID-19 case fatality rate of 2.3 percent.
However, in South Korea, where more people have been tested, the fatality rate is significantly less. As of March 7, 2020, over 181,000 people suspected with the virus have been tested, revealing 7,313 cases. Of these cases, 50 people died as of March 7. That computes to a fatality rate of 0.7 percent.
More recently, we find a March 9, 2020 study by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Here the researchers analyzed the results of the Diamond Princess cruise ship that sat off the coast of Japan.
In this case, most of the 3,711 people on the boat were tested. Of those, 634 people tested positive for COVID-19. Of those that tested positive, 328 had no symptoms. Of everyone that tested positive, 0.91 percent died. This is despite the reality that cruise line passengers tend to be older.
Most of those who died were over 70 years old and/or had other conditions that suppressed their immune systems.
The researchers then utilized the larger data pool from the China statistics to calculate a more accurate fatality rate. The London scientists calculated that these data led closer to a 0.5 percent fatality rate.
Such an infection-to-fatality rate would translate to a conclusion that 99.5% of all infections of COVID-19 are not fatal.
In terms of age, of those who died from COVID-19 (from February Chinese statistics), about 51.5 percent were over the age of 80 and 28 percent were between 70 and 79 years old. That means that 80 percent were over the age of 70. Of these deaths, 12.5 percent were between 60 and 69, so this means that 92 percent of deaths were over the age of 60. Deaths between 50 and 59 were 4.5 percent, and 1.4 percent between 40 and 49. None were under the age of 10, and the rest (about 2 percent) of those deaths were between 10 and 40 years old.
In terms of risk of death for those infected, this translates to only 1% of cases under the age of 50, 2.3% under the age of 60 (1.3% between 50 and 29), and 6% under age 70 (3.6% between 60-69 died). The rest were over the age of 70 years old, and many of those have also had concurrent conditions. Concurrent conditions leading to deaths of COVID-19 include heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension and cancer.
Even with these data, we must incorporate the reality that not everyone in the general population has been tested – which would include children as well as adults. Such a massive undertaking would certainly expose a significantly larger infected population – most of which are asymptomatic. Such data would inevitably reveal a fatality rate that would approach the fatality rate of many influenza strains.
Even so, the COVID-19 evidenced fatality rate is significantly less than the SARS virus, which registered at 9.5 percent. This means that so far, this coronavirus is far less deadly than the SARS virus of 2002 and 2003.
In comparison, influenza fatality rates may be lower, about 0.13 percent. But the number of deaths are significantly higher because the flu has been more rampant. In this flu season alone, the CDC has reported over 18,000 deaths from the flu in the U.S. this flu season, and the World Health Organization reports that between 290,000 and 650,000 deaths from the flu each year. These fatality numbers exceed even the COVID-19 fatality rates.
It is also important to understand what happened with the H1N1 Swine flu virus. From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, the CDC estimates there were 60.8 million cases in the US alone. There were 274,304 hospitalizations and about 12,500 deaths in the United States due to the (H1N1) Swine flu virus.
Globally, this number was much larger. In a 2012 study published in Lancet, researchers found the H1N1 virus resulted in the deaths of 284,500 people worldwide in just the 12 months of 2009. Through 2010, the global death rate associated with the H1N1 was as high as 571,000 around the world.
In terms of number of H1N1 cases, it has been difficult to calculate given the lack of testing and broad reach of the virus. However, a 2013 study tested for antibodies among 90,000 people around the world and found that 24% had antibodies to the H1N1 virus.
This means that the H1N1 virus likely infected over 2 billion people around the world.
To give some more breadth to the subject of mortality causes in the United States, here are the latest published mortality rates from the CDC for deaths in the U.S.:
- Heart disease: 647,457
- Cancer: 599,108
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
- Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
- Diabetes: 83,564
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 50,633
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173
“Fear of virus [is] a bigger problem than the virus.”– Dr. Dan Deere
What is COVID-19?
The scientific name for the virus is SARS-CoV-2. This virus causes the condition that is now called COVID-19.
Sequencing of the virus has determined it to be 75 to 80 percent match to SARS-CoV and more than 85 percent similar to multiple coronaviruses found in bats.
SARS stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome. It is a coronavirus or CoV. Coronaviruses also include cold viruses and influenza viruses. They are called “corona” viruses because they have spikes on their surface. These spikes are one of the reason colds and flu viruses (and SARS-CoV-2) are so infective.
Researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology published a paper on January 23, 2020. Their paper informs that COVID-19 has a 96 percent genome match with a bat coronavirus.
They also stated that COVID-19 utilizes the same cell entry receptor as the SARS-CoV of 2002-2004. The receptor is ACE2. We’ll discuss the importance of this later.
It has yet been determined whether the infection is as lethal as SARS. SARS is another outbreak that began in China in 2002, infecting people through 2004. More than 700 people died worldwide of SARS.
A study published on January 24 from the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital in Shenzhen studied six patients of COVID-19. They also determined that the virus was most similar to a SARS coronavirus found in Chinese horseshoe bats.
COVID-19 symptoms and transmission
So far, more than 80 percent of those who contract COVID-19 have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. Some have more serious symptoms, more focused on the lungs. For those who are generally healthy, other typical influenza symptoms are fairly mild in comparison to a typical flu.
These and other researchers have determined that the Wuhan CoV is transmitted from person to person when a person comes into contact with the secretions of an infected person. This means the virus is transmitted via the following means:
• Shaking hands then touching eyes, ears, mouth or nose
• Touching infected object then touching eyes, ears, mouth or nose
A March 2020 study from Germany tested people infected with COVID-19, and found they were contagious just before and during the peak of symptoms. However, within days (an average of 8) they were no longer contagious. They were still shedding the virus, but not the contagious form. Here is the abstract for that paper – note that the stool issue is not discussed in the abstract. Another 2020 study indicated viral shedding for up to 37 days, but this study does not appear to have tested contagious versus non-contagious forms of the virus.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
• Runny nose
• Dry cough
• Mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness
• Fatigue or muscle aches
Despite some sensationalism among some media sites, the virus is not airborne, any more than a typical flu virus is airborne. Yes, it can be transmitted with airborne droplets should someone sneeze or cough in our immediate presence. But this is not much different than a typical flu.
An airborne droplet might remain suspended for a few minutes after a sneeze or cough. But the suspension is not permanent.
Furthermore, transmittable virus will only last a few days on contact surfaces. The virus is susceptible to chlorine, so any chlorine-based cleaner will debilitate contagious forms of the virus.
The virus will only remain contagious for about 24 hours on cardboard. That means that as long as mail is not opened immediately, it should be safe.
The study discussed above also suggested that COVID-19 is not spread through fecal contact. Stool tests of the initial group and a follow up group indicated that their feces did not contain contagious forms of the virus. There were some viral RNA in their stool, but not the contagious form.
This and other studies have confirmed that as the immune system develops antibodies to the virus it begins to destroy the contagious form of the virus. So a person infected may still shed the virus, but that shed is not in a form that can infect others.
The elderly have been most at risk of the infection. Fatalities among healthy people and younger people have been minimal. This is similar to SARS, though it appears COVID-19 is less lethal than SARS and MERS. About 15 to 20 percent of cases can become severe. The rest are mild and recovery takes between a few days to two weeks.
The COVID-19 virus, just as was SARS and MERS, is an enveloped virus. This means the virus is protected by a glycoprotein shell.
Why boosting immunity is important
As the above information suggests, for most people a COVID-19 infection is mild and short-lived. Within a week or two the infection subsides and the person is left with antibodies that will protect the body from further infection. It is not known how long this immunity will last, but most agree that such immunity should not be very different from any other influenza virus. This means that ongoing immunity to the coronavirus should last a year, even several years.
For this reason, one of the more promising interventions is giving people antibodies recovered from those who have recovered from COVID-19. This is called convalescent plasma.
More evidence in this area is necessary to be sure, but vaccination and contracting the disease are typically similar in terms of the immune system’s production of antibodies, and the resultant immunity.
The fact that many of those who have suffered severe cases of COVID or died from it had suppressed immune system is significant.
This means that one of the primary focuses for ourselves and family members should be to strengthen our immune systems.
This would certainly be more productive than rushing the stores in a panic to hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
So let’s point out a few strategies to boost our immune system from evidence found in our publication.
We discussed in a recent article, a number of herbal medicines that work with the body to deter viral infections that are similar to COVID-19. These include red algae and herbs that have been found to directly inhibit SARS and MERS viruses, as well as HIV, herpes and other viral infections.
This discussion includes Western herbs, red algae as well as Chinese herbs.
The benefits for the use of herbal medicines during pandemics can be seen from the data uncovered from the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which killed millions of people around the world.
During this 1918 Spanish Flue epidemic the population-wide fatality rate in China was close to half of the rest of the world, at 1.3 per thousand compared to an average of 2.5 per thousand worldwide.
One of the strategies that Chinese officials utilized was handing out herbal medicines to the public during this epidemic.
Among those infected, the Chinese fatality rate was also significantly lower during 1918. For example, Hebei province localities had an average of between 1.9 percent and 3.2 percent. This compares to the San Francisco fatality rate of 9 percent (2,122 died from 23,639 infections).
Traditional Chinese medicines have been utilized in epidemics with success for over a thousand years. After the great epidemics between 171 and 185 AD, Chinese herbalists set out to develop herbal formulations that would help prevent and treat viral infections.
Today, many of those same Chinese herbal formulations have been tested and found to be significantly shorten illnesses due to other viral outbreaks.
In addition to our article on COVID, we have published research showing herbal strategies to fight H1N1 influenza infections.
We have also discussed evidence showing that mushrooms fight viral infections.
In addition, we discuss herbs that fight a variety of types of viral infections, including herpes simplex, human papillomavirus, We have also discussed specific antiviral herbs such as goldenseal, ginger, and holy basil.
With all of these herbal strategies we find two different effects. We find that specific herbal medicines specifically inhibit the replication of certain viruses.
We also find that these and other herbs will boost the immune system. This is done by stimulating the liver, increasing free radical scavenging and boosting T cells and other immune cells.
Medications that can increase severity
Recent research has indicated that certain medications can increase the risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19.
One such class of medications is ACE-inhibitor medications. Research from Louisiana State University School of Medicine suggests that taking ACE-inhibitor medications (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) can significantly increase the risk of severe COVID-19 cases. The research comes after an analysis of 1,099 COVID-19 patients.
Another study has indicated that medications called glucocorticoids can also increase the severity of a COVID-19 coronavirus infection.
We can do more
Certainly the advice given by medical professionals to wash our hands and keep a distance is good. And most certainly, protecting through self-isolation those who have suppressed immunity or otherwise more susceptible is wise.
And once there is a vaccine developed, utilizing that vaccine to develop a population-wide immunity to COVID-19 is wise.
We can also help boost our immunity by exercising, reducing drinking and smoking (if we drink or smoke), reducing our toxin load and getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine.
These strategies along with immune-boosting herbs will help give our bodies the strength so that if we do become infected, it will more likely be a mild case.
Furthermore, we can do more. We can be there for others. We can help protect the more vulnerable people from getting infected. We can resist the temptation to hoard supplies, and leave some supplies for others to buy. We can help those who need food or other provisions. We can help the homeless who may be in need.
Yes, we can do more by caring about each other during this time of testing.
Talk to your doctor if you or a family member has symptoms of COVID-19.