Covid-19 : How to survive a Pandemic
March 16th 2020
As many readers will be aware the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a pandemic due to a new coronavirus on 11th March 2020. For most of us this is the first pandemic we have experienced, but pandemics are not a new thing on Earth. The pandemic of 1918 is still fresh in many memories and as a child many of us sang “ring-a-ring rosies”, a nursery rhyme that is thought to date back to the Great Plague.
In this article I hope to answer many of the questions that I have repeatedly had to answer of late as well as give you some really effective ways to keep you and your family healthy while we navigate this coming storm.
What is a Coronavirus and what is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses affecting both animals and humans. They are called coronaviruses because they have a ‘corona’ or ‘crown’ on their outside. They affect mainly the respiratory system and can be passed between human and animals. This is how this pandemic is thought to have started when a bat virus might have infected a human. Once it was noticed that there was a ‘new kind of pneumonia’, the new virus was discovered. It was given the name 2019nCoV - which means that it was discovered in 2019 and is a novel (new) kind of coronavirus.
The ‘new kind of pneumonia’ was given the name COVID-19 because it is the disease you get from the virus. The virus is different from the influenza virus. It also appears to attack the immune system as well as the respiratory system and this is why some people get very sick and even die when they get infected.
How is it spread?
Scientists are still working this out. What we do know is that it is spread in droplet form like other viruses. It is not as infectious as measles but it is easily spread in close contact with other humans.
Do masks work?
Masks do help. Especially for those infected it will help to stop the spread of airborne droplets. They have also been shown to be effective for health workers and those in high exposure situations.
How do I best protect myself?
The best thing to do is to strengthen your immunity. It has become quite clear that the disease only really affects those with a weak immune system. People with good immune systems may get the virus but then may not get any symptoms. Children have much stronger immune systems and so are much less affected than adults.
While each person is different and so what each person needs is different, there are a few generic things you can do;
Firstly make sure you are taking a good multivitamin. Harvard School of Public Health recommends this anyway for those is Western society due to nutritional deficiencies in the Western diet. In my clinic I usually prescribe Solgar Formula VM2000 but use whatever is available in your area. Zinc is one important micronutrient for the immune system.
Secondly, eat lots of fruit and vegetables. You should be eating ‘five plus a day’ anyway but I already know many people do not. Fresh is best of course but canned will be better than nothing. At the time of writing the supermarket shelves still had lots of canned fruit!
And lastly, Do not stress! Try and see the positive side of the fact that your life is a bit different from normal. While one door closes another door opens. Stress affects the immune system in a negative way so please try and do what you can to feel good.
What do I do if I have flu symptoms and think I have COVID-19?
Firstly, follow your local Government's advice on how to approach your health provider. In New Zealand, information can be found here.
Given the way that things are heading you are probably going to have to look after yourself and your family, though some countries have much better government and health systems than others.
The most important thing to note is to AVOID TAKING MOST PHARMACEUTICALS. This is because they do more harm than good in this disease.
In the cells of your body you have something called mitochondria. This is the engine of the cell, much like an engine of a car. How well the cell functions depends on how well it's engine (mitochondria) is functioning. And how well the cell functions is how well you will be.
When the virus infects you, it infects your cells and when it does this it takes advantage of your mitochondria so that they do not work very well. Coronaviruses have been said to 'hijack' the mitochondria.
Most pharmaceuticals it has been discovered in the last few years can have some serious side effects on your mitochondria. COVID-19 is a mitochondrial disorder. A list of the more toxic drugs is here and some of the science and politics of the matter can be found here.
To put it simply by taking many pharmaceuticals you are helping the virus because they also affects the mitochondria. If we look at the latest figures it further reinforces this point. (Screenshot captured March 15, 2020, 2315hrs GMT from worldometers website)
Even though Italy had forewarning it's death rate is 7.3%,compared to China’s of just under 4%. Germany has a death rate of only 0.2%, whereas France’s is ten times higher at 2.3%, and Spain’s is about twenty times higher at 3.7%.
Clearly different medical systems are having different outcomes.
China has an extensive herbal medicine as part of it medical system. Italy does not. All the Italian doctors have in their tool kit are pharmaceuticals. They are not trained in herbal medicine.
Germany also has an herbal and nutritional medical system. France and Spain do not. Again the French and Spanish doctors despite their best efforts, do not have the tools to heal their more seriously ill patients.
South Korea did get some warning and does have an herbal medicine system, but has a death rate of 0.9%. This is still half that of the USA (1.8%), with all it's modern medical technology and no herbal medical system.
Interestingly in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health initially recommended using paracetamol (acetaminophen, Panadol. Tylenol) for COVID-19, but later advice was updated to “..there is no specific treatment..”.
If you are already taking pharmaceuticals (such as anti-depressants), talk to your doctor and try to take as less as possible while we are in a pandemic. However do remember many pharmaceuticals are dangerous to stop suddenly so please be careful.
[UPDATE] As this article was going to press the French doctors issued a warning about the more dangerous pharmaceuticals. You can read this article here
[UPDATE 17th March 2020] Another article this time from health experts criticising the UK government's advice to use pharmaceuticals.
In both of the above articles the Western doctors advise that paracetamol is safe and effective whereas, in my opinion, the science would say otherwise. Paracetamol helps with fever and pain. Fever is actually a good thing for the immune system to fight off the virus - unless it gets too high - over 40.5 C (105 F) - or a fever that it still present after three days. Also taking paracetamol may make you more infectious.
If you are in pain try and weigh up the potential for weakening your immune system versus how bad the pain is. There are other ways of treating pain such as acupressure to also consider.
[UPDATE 18th March 2020] One antiviral that had shown promise is called favipiravir, although it only appears to help in the early stages of the disease.
OK so what herbs do I take then?
In my clinic the classic formula commonly prescribed is called Yin Qiao Pian - 银翘解毒片. This formula is available all over the world at any respectable Chinese herbal store. In New Zealand you normally would be able to find this in Auckland and Wellington (and maybe Christchurch) at any of the Chinese Herbal stores in town. By the time you read this I suspect you would be very lucky to find any in the shops.
However there is still a way to get a version of it. One of the key herbs in this formula is Japanese honeysuckle flower. We call this Jin Yin Hua - Flos Lonicerae - 金銀花 in TCM. It is an excellent antiviral and antipyretic (reduces fever) and has shown to be very effective in China not just for COVID-19, but was used as a primary weapon against the 2002 SARS outbreak at the hospital I worked and trained in Guang Zhou.
For the readers in New Zealand and in many places off the world this plant is common and grows in many gardens about the place. If you click on this link you will also be able to find out what it looks like and maybe where it grows near you. Make sure that you ask the owner before you trespass on private property.
Harvest the buds and the flowers and either dry them on low heat in your oven, or in a food dehydrator. The usual dosage is between 3 and 9 grams (dried) and boil this for twenty minutes, to make a tea which is then drunk. When there are no flowers the twigs and leaves can be used but they are much weaker. If you are harvesting from people's gardens try and check that they have not been sprayed.
I think it would be wise for anybody that has elder relatives or low immune systems to go and get a store of this herb before you are not allowed to leave your house.
There are many other antiviral herbs that are used around the world. Plants have to fight off viral infections too!!
In China, both herbal medicine and acupuncture has proven very effective in treating COVID-19. Part of this effectiveness comes from matching the treatment with the patient. Therefore there are many options for treating this disease but it will depend on what symptoms the patient actually shows.
Will the virus mutate?
The virus has already mutated. We know that there are two strains, an older S-type and a newer L-type. The L-type appears to be more infectious but is maybe milder and spread more outside of China. The S-type appears to be stronger and China has probably done the world a service by keeping it contained within its borders. It will most certainly mutate again but whether this makes it more serious or not we do know. The virus just wants to spread, so if it becomes more deadly and kills people quicker it then won’t spread as well.
What about a vaccine?
In my opinion talk of a vaccine is just that – talk. While I suspect that maybe sometime in the future a company will be touting that they have a vaccine, there is no way we have enough time to prove that any such vaccine is safe and effective.
Remember this is not the first pandemic the world has ever experienced nor will it be the last. Yes many things will change in the next few months, but over 90% of humanity will survive and the world will be all the better for it. In Chinese philosophy we talk about when Yang converts to Yin. This is what is happening right now. It is all part of the natural order of life on earth.
"All things change.. and we change with them.
Tempora mutantur... nos et mutamur in illis."