WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS and WHAT IS A PANDEMIC?
- Viruses are microscopic parasites that lack the capacity to thrive and reproduce outside of a host body.
- Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that cause illnesses in animals and humans. These viruses commonly infect the upper respiratory system, presenting as the common cold. COVID-19 is a new coronavirus, which presents with mild to severe upper and lower respiratory systems.
- Most young, healthy people will get a mild illness, but some people with underlying medical conditions or lung problems may be at higher risk for complications from COVID-19.
- A pandemic is a global outbreak of a disease. Pandemics occur when there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.
- As of March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic since it has reached nearly all parts of the world.
- We must do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following social distancing guidelines and the rules set in place by our individual governments.
COVID-19 PRIMARILY SPREADS FROM PERSON TO PERSON AND FROM CONTAMINATED OBJECTS AND SURFACES
- When someone is sick, sneezes or coughs, droplets carrying the virus can land on the mouths and noses of people nearby.
- Close contact with someone who is sick, such as shaking hands or hugging can spread the virus.
- If you touch something contaminated and then touch your face (nose, mouth, or eyes) or another person’s face, you all might fall ill.
- Symptoms may appear 2-14 days following exposure.
- It is important to note that some people may not develop any symptoms (asymptomatic), but may be carriers of the virus. Therefore, it is important to wash hands, wear masks, and social distance, even if you feel well!
- The most common symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat, unexplained loss of taste or smell, chills, and headache. Occasionally, some people experience nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Symptom severity can range from mild to severe.
- If you develop the above symptoms, phone your primary care physician and explain your symptoms before going to the medical office or emergency room.
- If you have a medical emergency such as severe shortness of breath, call your local emergency number.
- Official diagnosis of COVID-19 is made with a laboratory test.
- Currently, in many countries, tests are in limited supply and distributed based upon physician triage - according to risk factors, including age, comorbid chronic illnesses, immunosuppressed, work and residential location, travel history, and symptom severity.
- Your doctor will advise you how to obtain your test if needed.
- Although researchers are working hard towards this goal, to date, there is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19.
- Treatment focuses upon symptom management and reducing the spread to well individuals through self-isolation.
- Without vaccines, outbreaks occur, and deadly diseases can re-emerge. Vaccinations are the single most effective method of infectious disease prevention.
REDUCE YOUR RISK OF COVID-19! FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds
- Cough and sneeze into your bent elbow or face covering
- Limit social gatherings to <10 people and avoid crowded places
- Keep social distancing to a minimum of 6 feet/2 meters between people
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
The immune system is complex, is composed of special organs, cells, and chemicals that prevent, limit and fight infection. The main components of the immune system include white blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and bone marrow. Keep your immune system fighting fit with a comprehensive approach to all aspects of your health: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
1. Don’t smoke
a. Smoking decreases circulation and negatively affects lung function. Smoking is linked to many diseases, such as cancer, coronary artery disease, strokes, emphysema and other lung diseases. All of these reduce immune function.
2. Avoid excessive alcohol
a. Alcohol reduces immune system function by negatively affecting the digestive system, circulatory system, respiratory system, and decreases the production of immune cells.
3. Get adequate sleep
a. Inadequate sleep may increase your risk of illness, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Most adults should aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night.
4. Minimize stress
a. Cortisol is the hormone released during periods of high stress; it is known to suppress the immune system.
b. To moderate your stress response, use relaxation techniques that are most effective for you - these can include yoga, meditation, prayer, listening to music, reading, walking, talking with a friend.
c. Laughter is a great form of stress relief. It enhances oxygen uptake stimulating the heart and lungs and increases endorphins, thereby soothing tension and reducing stress.
5. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
a. Recommended daily servings of fruit = 2+ (1 serve = 1 raw fruit, 1 cup of berries, or 1 cup of juice)
b. Recommended daily servings of vegetables = 5+ (1 serve = 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked vegetables)
c. Whole plant foods contain antioxidants, a substance that protects cells against the potentially damaging effects of free radicals. Antioxidant rich foods include blueberries, pecans, dark chocolate, strawberries, artichokes, goji berries, raspberries, kale, red cabbage, beans, beets, and spinach.
6. Encourage healthy gut flora
a. 70% of our immune system is located within the gut. To encourage good gut bacteria, eat plenty of fibrous foods and pre-biotic foods such as, bananas, chicory, and flax seeds.
b. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, helping to reduce constipation and improve gut microbiome.
7. Eat healthy fats
a. Healthy fats, like those found in avocados, olive oil, or salmon, may boost the body’s immune response to pathogens (bacteria and viruses) by decreasing inflammation.
8. Consume sugar sparingly
a. Sugar significantly reduces the ability of white blood cells to destroy pathogens.
9. Exercise regularly
a. Moderate exercise improves the immune system by stimulating the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system houses immune cells that kill off abnormal cells and harmful substances. Muscle contractions during exercise works as the pump for the lymphatic system, so that it flows more effectively and potentially prevents infections.
b. Intense bursts of exercise and prolonged training should be avoided when you feel unwell as this can depress the immune system - reduce training if presenting with excessive fatigue.
10. Proper hygiene
a. Wash your hands regularly, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends lathering with soap and scrubbing for 20 seconds.
b. When you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (>60% alcohol)
c. Decontaminate frequently touched surfaces by wiping down with disinfectant.
The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.
A special thanks to the author, Dr Jenifer Maynard, WTA Medical Advisor.