The Basics of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
March 11, 2020
From Dr. Ahvie Herskowitz
Most people will never know they’ve been infected with coronavirus since testing for asymptomatic persons is not yet available. It is very likely that many more people have been infected and remain asymptomatic carriers. Since quarantines will not be easy to implement in the USA rapidly, and therefore as a society, we may be at a higher risk for exposure over the next 1-2 months. Prevention and heightening our immunity are the best strategies.
Most of the patient variability (how sick do you get) lies in the effect of medical preconditions on immunity (i.e., the older you are, the more you likely have conditions that reduce your overall immunity). As you can see from the graph, a clear increase in susceptibility to getting very ill and dying from COVID-19 occurs above the age of 50, and is highest in the 70 and 80+ age groups. But, you may ask why does an increased risk occur at the young age of 50?
The most likely explanation is that many are relatively immunosuppressed due to an inflammatory lifestyle and the levels of circulating Natural Killer cells (our innate surveillance system) are lower than they should be. This is the case for most people, and NOT only for those on steroids or chemotherapy.
But, there is more to a true risk assessment. Dr. Herskowitz’s early research career at Johns Hopkins emphasized that there is also an immune genetic component — your genetics dictate how you will respond to any given virus (in an organized modulated way, or a dysregulated exaggerated way — a sort of “overreaction”). Since the latter is not predictable in advance, modulating your immune system not to overreact is one key element to staying out of trouble with any potential exposure to COVID-19.
Your immune system has two jobs:
- to surveil for viruses including COVID-19; and
- to respond, contain and ultimately eradicate the novel virus once it is identified.
This is why a two pronged approach will help limit infection risk (PREVENTION) and also limit any “OVERREACTION” if you are exposed.
You can limit exposure by practicing “social distancing” and by not concentrating only on wearing a mask, (masks alone are largely ineffective for prevention)… handwashing, yes, and wearing gloves when outside the house may be a very good idea. Also see below for how heat can kill COVID-19 effectively.
To heighten your surveillance system, one key element is keeping your Vitamin D levels up. My personal preference is to keep my Vit D levels at 80-100 of 80-100. This often takes 5,000-10,000-20,000 IU (International Units) orally per day for the next several weeks.
Here are some helpful tips to share with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues:
- If you have a runny nose and sputum, you most likely have a common cold. Coronavirus pneumonia is a dry cough, typically with fever, aches and some nasal congestion, but no runny nose.
- Apparently, this new virus is not heat-resistant and will be killed by a temperature of just 26/27° C or 78.8°F degrees. It apparently does not tolerate heat, (I have not validated this yet).
- If someone sneezes with it, it takes those particles about 10 feet before they drop to the ground and is no longer airborne.
- If they drop on a metal surface it will live for at least 12 hours – so if you come into contact with any metal surface – wash your hands as soon as you can with a bacterial soap.
- On fabric it can survive for 6-12 hours. Normal laundry detergent will kill it.
- Drinking hot or warm water/tea may be effective for many viruses. Try not to drink liquids with ice.
- Wash your hands frequently as the virus can only live on your hands for 5-10 minutes, but — a lot can happen during that time — you can rub your eyes, touch your nose or mouth unwittingly and so on — avoid touching your face throughout the day/while in public.
- You should also gargle as a preventive measure. A simple solution of salt in warm water is good but using colloidal silver is best.
And, this cannot be emphasized enough – drink plenty of water!
- It will first infect the throat, so you will have a sore throat lasting 3-4 days.
- The virus then blends into a nasal fluid that enters the trachea and then the lungs, where it may develop into pneumonia; this takes another 5-6 days.
- With the pneumonia comes high fever and difficulty in breathing. It’s imperative you then seek immediate medical attention.
About Ahvie Herskowitz, MD
Dr. Herskowitz’s extensive training includes a medical degree from The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, residencies in Anatomic Pathology and Internal Medicine, and Fellowship training in Cardiology at The Johns Hopkins Medical Center. During his 12 years at Johns Hopkins, he became Associate Professor of Medicine and Immunology and Molecular Microbiology and led a research team in the study of molecular and immunological mechanisms of inflammation, autoimmunity, ischemia, heart transplantation rejection and congestive heart failure.
Dr. Herskowitz’s latest academic appointment was as Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC San Francisco. To learn more about Dr. Herskowitz, you can read it bio here.
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Any and all statements and opinions are provided for educational information and are not intended for medical diagnosis. As with all medical treatments and procedures, results may vary on an individual basis.
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