2020 World Health Crisis: Coronavirus COVID-19
Guest blog written by Dr. Howard Elkin M.D.
- World Health Organization (WHO) announces that COVID-19 is officially a pandemic.
- The NBA announces suspension of their regular season indefinitely.
- The 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament is canceled (first time since its inception in 1939).
- Santa Clara County, California passes an order imposing mandatory countywide moratorium on gatherings of more than 100 persons.
Los Angeles bars and nightclubs will close and restaurants must halt dine-in service and limit their business to takeout until March 31 as part of the city’s attempt to slow the spread of the virus, announced Major Eric Garcetti. Movie theaters, gyms and fitness centers will also be closed.
These headlines essentially changed how many of us felt with the rapid spread of coronavirus COVID-19. Suddenly panic and pandemonium reached a new height. Italy and most recently Spain announced total lockdown.
Amid the outbreak and the mounting public response, Disneyland is closing. Broadway has shut its doors. Schools are closing and large gatherings are being banned.
President Trump declared a national emergency and in the early morning hours on 3/14, and the House passed a bill to provide Americans relief.
By 3/15/20 the number of confirmed cases worldwide topped 170,000, according to a report from Johns Hopkins University. More than 6,500 people have died. Latest counts here in the Unites States have totaled more than 3,700 infections and 60 deaths.
SO THE PROBLEM IS REAL, AND WHAT REMAINS IS A LOT OF UNKNOWN.
Those at greatest risk are the elderly, those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and lung disease. As a cardiologist, such people constitute a large proportion of my patient base.
A few facts:
- Overall case fatality rate remains low at 2.3%
- Morbidity and mortality increase significantly with age, rising to 8.0% among patients 70-79 and 14.8% in patients over 80 in large scale Chinese case reporting.
- Case fatality rates for those with comorbid conditions are higher than the average population
Chromic lung disease: 6.3%
Cardiovascular disease: 10.5%
Despite the fact that many of the patients whom I see are indeed high risk, that doesn’t necessarily connote a negative outcome. That’s when it clearly pays to be your own medical advocate while staying in the driver’s seat when it comes to your health.
Firstly, despite the need for universal concern, there is no need for panic. Panic leads to intense anxiety which clearly weakens the immune system. This is the exact antithesis of what is needed at this time.
I don’t understand the hoarding of water and paper products. This is a health emergency, not a natural disaster. Furthermore, we need not deprive others of much needed supplies. It’s not about “everyman for himself.” Such thinking is panic.
Most of the commonly mentioned precautions have been aptly stated by the CDC and others:
- Washing of hands. The average person spends about 6 seconds on this menial task. It’s time to adopt a new strategy; extend this to 22-30 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers will do.
- Sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm, and not your hand. Remember the virus spreads by nasal droplets.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is acutely ill.
- Avoid shaking hands and hand holding. Instead opt for an elbow bump.
- Avoid touching your face. This is a tough one. The average person touches their face over 160 times a day!
- Stay hydrated. Keep the blood pumping and the kidneys working.
- Stay home if you feel ill, as to avoid inoculating others. If you have to leave your house, make sure to wear a mask.
- Facemasks should be reserved for those showing symptoms to prevent spread of disease. They are not recommended for the general
Some of my recommendations:
- Watch your sugar and carb intake. You may consider it comfort food, but it can cripple your immune system. It can deplete your body from critical immune –supporting nutrients, such as zinc, vitamin C and glutathione. There is a sugar- vitamin C link. Through the pancreatic hormone insulin, sugar and vitamin C compete for the same spot in your immune system. Don’t allow sugar to win! Doing so could impair your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness and disease.
- Prioritize sleep. Sleep is one of the most important activities when it comes to combating the ill effects of aging and disease. Sleep equates to rest, repair and rejuvenate. The contrary, sleep deprivation leads to heightened stress response, reduced immune function and increased inflammatory processes. The end result is enhanced vulnerability to infections and illness.
- Get outdoors. Unlike our ancestors, we spend the majority of our time indoors, up to 90%. Although staying indoors protects us from adverse weather conditions, it also increases our exposure to indoor pollutants. Spending too much time indoors disallows us from the protective factors we receive while outdoors, including vitamin D from the sun, and electrons from the earth while being barefoot (grounding). Additionally, most of us become destressed while in nature.
- Avoid large gatherings whenever possible. It just makes sense.
Various foods can support immune health
- Lemons and limes. These are great sources of vitamin C and antioxidants.
- This age old remedy may reduce inflammation, support your immune system and help fight infections.
- Apple cider vinegar. Provides great disinfectant support
- Olive oil
What about supplements? There are numerous supplements that can help support the immune system during stressful times such as what we are currently experiencing. I tend to keep it simple and stick to the basics. Remember diet and lifestyle are key to maintaining immune health while avoiding disease. Supplements are next in line.
Some of my favorites:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Astragalus (used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine).
- Fish oil
- Probiotic (80% of our immune system emanates in the gut)
The above list is not nearly complete, though they constitute my personal preferences.
There is no question that our country and the world at large are dealing with a true health crisis, call it a pandemic or national emergency. We all need to do our part and respond appropriately, replacing fear and panic with action. We need to “keep the calm”.
Regardless of whether or not you are in a high risk group, we can all do our part and shake off the ill effects of coronavirus COVID-19. That’s what medical advocates do. We stay in the driver’s seat when it comes to our health.
Wishing all of you optimal health and wellness; now and for always.
Howard Elkin , MD
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